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If there’s one thing I’ve learned while trying to juggle multiple different jobs/pursuits at once, it’s that multi-tasking is way overrated.

My computer is both my friend and my enemy: It’s amazing that this little box sitting in front of me allows me to play music, browse blogs, make spreadsheets, answer emails, look at photos on Facebook and plan dinner for the night… all at once. But that ability to do all these functions can also very easily keep me from getting meaningful work done.

In fact, I am realizing that it’s not a sign of weakness to admit to myself that I do my best work when I have zero distractions.

When I have an approaching deadline breathing down my neck — month end financials for our bank, for example — I am frequently astonished at how quickly I am able to accomplish a large chunk of work. I sit with my mug of tea at my computer, maybe some music playing lightly in the background, with QuickBooks and Excel open, phone on silent.

This is a good indicator that I am capable of focus: When something needs to be done, I am able to shut out all distraction and internet temptation and really let my focus work for me.

The next step is to take this focus I apply to deadlined, clearly outlined tasks and put it into more self-directed creative endeavors. Right now I blog, photograph, and brainstorm in spare time or gaps in the afternoon after the initial, more pressing morning work has died down.

Unfortunately, usually by late afternoon/early evening I have “used up” my daily ration of strong focus. This often results in just dabbling around in a blog draft or editing a few photos before daydreaming about dinner commences.

I wonder what quality of work I would able to produce if I consciously set aside time and energy to hone in on my creative pursuits, too.