Focus as an Accelerant

I am, by nature, a distracted person. I love doing six or seven different things at the same time. I can work on a spreadsheet while browsing Facebook, responding to emails, listening to music and watching a ballgame. It suits my personality.

But am I really being productive when I do that? Probably not. While some of us have long boasted of our ability to multitask efficiently, research studies (such as this one) now indicate that we’ve been fooling ourselves. Multitasking makes it more difficult to organize thoughts and filter out irrelevant information, and it actually reduces the efficiency and quality of our work. So when I really need to focus and get stuff done I turn everything else off and immerse myself in one task.

I teach an entrepreneurship course at Stanford University and most of my students are already working on a startup as a side project. Some of them, in fact, are working on more than one startup side project. I always tell them that side projects never achieve escape velocity. Eventually they will have to decide to quit everything else and go all-in on one. Because as the Chinese proverb says, “If you try to chase three rabbits, they will all get away”.

In staffing engagements here at Tivix, we are very cognizant of this. We try to always give our team members the ability to focus on client engagements and not have to do a lot of context-shifting. Most of our team members are 100% focused on one client engagement for many weeks. Occasionally we’ll have a team member on two projects, but we try to avoid ever having anyone on more than two client engagements at one time. Because focus matters.

“Accelerate” has become a key term in today’s business world. Every company wants to accelerate their time-to-market with new products. Startups enter “accelerators” such as Y-combinator with the notion that it will accelerate their process.

At Tivix, we have found that focus is one of the best accelerants. Focused engineers get things done. Focused engineers get products to market quickly.