Eric Kraus



The Truth About Multi-tasking

The question has been asked many times before…

“Is it possible for people to multi-task?”

Productivity experts generally agree, humans just aren’t made for multi-tasking. Yet many people claim they are great at it. We even see job descriptions with qualifications like: “seeking someone that can prioritize and multi-task effectively.”

In order to have an opinion on the matter, it’s important we first understand the definition of the word.  The term “multi-tasking” comes from modern computer lingo describing technology that processors have gained so that multiple tasks can be completed (seemingly) “at the same time”.


Sequential Tasking

With the invention of the first computers, work primarily executed in discrete tasks. Each task needed to wait for the previous to complete before the processor could load the next to execute.

A visit to the motor vehicle office will be a crushing reminder of this. You wait patiently until your number is called. When it’s your turn, your request, regardless of how complex it is, gets the undivided attention of your agent. After you license is renewed, you are on your way, and the next number is called. This way processing is designed to be fair, effective and minimize human error.



With the evolution of modern computing, we don’t have the same limitations as we do in the “human world”. Modern processors offer more scale and efficiency than people, with almost zero error too.

However, the term “multi-tasking” is somewhat of a misnomer to us humans. Computer processors don’t actually execute tasks “at the same time”. Rather, tasks are still executed individually, but the processor allows a task to efficiently “interrupt” an existing task that is waiting for something else to happen. During this waiting period, the second task is able to borrow the processor’s time and execute. When the original task is ready to resume again, it must wait for any current tasks to complete. It will then borrow time back and complete itself.

To the end user, all of this task “switching” is done so quickly, it appears as if it’s all at the same time. The truth is, processors are just extremely efficient at switching between these computer tasks.

Here’s a modern example: you walk into a coffee shop and order a cup of coffee. The barista is working on another drink order, but while the beans are grinding, he makes your drink and you’re on your way. He then finishes the first drink and everyone is happy. One could argue this talented barista made two drinks at the same time; however, we know semantically this isn’t really the case.


So when it comes to  human multi-tasking, the question still stands: “Is it possible for us to multi-task?”  The answer, yes definitely, it just depends on the types of tasks we are switching between.


It’s All About The Switching

Processors are designed to be extremely efficient at switching quickly between tasks. They are so efficient…the experience to the end user appears like things are happening at the same time, but we know now, that’s not technically the case.

The coffee shop example is a great one for comparison. For a barista, switching between two or more similar, routine tasks is totally feasible. Another example is making dinner. Cooking 3 or 4 things at the “same time” requires a skill in switching between doing dozens of individual things, one after another (rather than all at the same time). The tolerance for little bits of error is acceptable as well.

As professionals, we are typically engaged in more complex tasks that require focus and deeper, analytical thinking. This analytical thinking requires a longer “ramp up” time and therefore does not lend itself well to this “fast switching”. Our jobs also generally have less acceptance for errors and therefore require extra attention to detail.  There is good research that shows the more complex a task is, the more that switching between them will cause a loss in productivity.

So, while we have been led to believe that multi-tasking is a desirable skill in the professional world, the resulting loss in productivity leads many to abandon this strategy as a means to “get more done”.


A Case for More Time just… Thinking

Before we get down on ourselves for being terrible multi-taskers…we need to recognize what our true strength is. Our brains were simply not designed for switching; they were designed for deep, analytical and creative thinking. This is our sweet spot. These days, we don’t spend nearly enough time dedicated to using this super-power.

Over the years, we’ve created a culture of instant gratification…one that rewards quick responses, often valuing immediacy over completeness or creativity. This go-go mentality is causing people to fall short of of our human potential to develop new ideas. We go from meeting to meeting in which we are interrupted dozens of times with text/instant messages, email alerts and more. At the end of the day, what have we accomplished? Is our badge of honor one of simply ‘being busy’.

I’m making a case that we need to build a new culture. One centered around the values teamwork and creativity. One that rewards better results, not just faster answers. We need to set aside time in our day dedicated to thinking and creativity. Some would argue, “getting actual work done”.  This is what differentiates us from computers and will continue to evolve us, solve world problems and create a future rich for generations to follow.

2018 Goals

One of the best ways to accomplish your goals is to hold yourself publicly accountable. For some, it’s as simple as telling people about what you’re trying to achieve.  For others, it’s about building engagement on the journey.

I’m hoping this inspires others to do the same (be public with your goals) as well as encourage feedback on my own journey.



100 Books in 2018

I’m starting this goal late (February). Rather than figure out how I’ll measure this against the year, I’m just… starting. The goal is to read 100 books in 2018 and I’ll be keeping track of them here.  You’ll notice a general theme to my books, but I’m really open. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!




New Productivity Strategy: Reflection

This post is a follow up to the New Productivity Strategy post I wrote on October 31. I wanted to give this new strategy a go for a month and see if it had any impact on getting more “work” done.

To catch you up, my new framework looked something like this:

  1. My 50+ item task list will get prioritized to my “must do” top 5
  2. Those 5 items are my “only do” list for the moment
  3. New emails fall on the “never do” list, so I won’t check email until my “must do” items are done
  4. After done, I’ll check email, triage and re-prioritize the task list
  5. Take a break
  6. Repeat

Rather than simply “focus” on the things to do, I was getting sucked in to a daily routine of just following up on interruptions: email, instant message, etc. So many in fact, I could go days without getting any of my actual tasks done.

This new approach is reinforcing a few valuable lessons in prioritization:

  • We can only prioritize a few things at the same time…and really only really work on ONE thing at a time. Proper goal setting for the day is critical.
  • It’s important to specifically call out things that are consistently distractions – email and IM are #1 for me. Email is actually de-prioritized on my list and I no longer log into IM tool.
  • Some things you just can’t put on the Never Do List. While I can’t remove email completely, I can designate specific times to do it…and do it fast. Internal email doesn’t warrant the same scrutiny as something written to a client. Most of the time quantity is better than quality.
  • Delegation is important, but it has overhead on the follow through. If you are consistently delegating a task, it might be valuable to remove yourself from the middle. 
  • I’ve played with the Pomodoro Technique over the years, but it has recently come in very handy to carve out time for forced breaks OR time to catch up on email.
  • This approach takes a discipline in saying “no”. Historically, that’s been a weakness of mine. 

The biggest challenge in all of this is the feeling of dropping other tasks, letting others down or not appearing as useful as others. However, the bigger let down would be not completing the few things one must get done.

As far as the workload, I am absolutely making significant progress. As expected, it’s a bit disruptive to others that are used to the quick turn around on “interruptions”.  Setting proper expectations with them has been helpful. The bigger lesson in all of this is being aware of the need for change and continually experimenting/growing to meet  the need.


New Productivity Strategy

I recently took a new role with my company. It wasn’t a difficult transition. I have the same responsibilities…just different customers I work with. It was a change I was excited for. Being someone that values growth, how can you learn if you aren’t exposed to new things.

However, with the transition came with a number of other organizational changes as well. With everyone around me also changing roles, it was chaos.

“the way I worked in the past simply wasn’t working anymore”

Read More …

My ONE Thing

I’ve been reading The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Rather fitting, the book discusses one main theme: To be successful, focus on ONE thing and one thing only. It’s full of great quotes, useful analogies and anecdotes to apply the principles behind achieving success. About half way through the book I started to think, “What’s my ONE thing?”  which led me to writing this post.

My Challenge

I’ve been blogging on/off for the last couple of years, and have recently tried to improve the frequency and consistency of my content output. I’ve been proud of the work thus far, but always wish I could do more.

Many successful daily bloggers talk about only publishing content that they are truly proud of. Since writing is a in-my-spare-time endeavor, my challenge has been balancing prioritizing between my day job and family and the time needed curate and edit quality posts. I’ve been struggling to find that time needed to write the quality content that I would be proud of.

Quality vs. Quantity

I am conflicted with the advice of these bloggers… to only publish extremely high quality content. For starters, it’s a subjective valuation of the content. Is it my opinion or the readers? Surely, it’s the readers, right? For example, I might be overly anal about grammar, while a reader has mostly ignored my punctuation and is more interested in the story. You get the point.

Also, I believe doing is better than thinking. Rather than spending more time thinking about a single post, I’d rather spend that time working on a second or third post…

The entrepreneur in me says, more/regular posts are better than writing the “perfect” post.

Figure It Out

While the major premise of the book is discussing the idea of focusing on ONE thing, there is an undertone of “getting started immediately” as well. The best quote of the book is found early and is taken from the movie City Slickers. It’s the part of the movie where Mitch and Curly, who haven’t seen eye-to-eye up to this point, leave the group to herd stray cattle. As they ride together alone, they seem to bond over a conversation about life.

Curly: “Do you know what the secret to life is?”
Mitch: “No. What?”
Curly: “This.” [holds up one finger]
Mitch: “Your finger?”
Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean sh*t”
Mitch: “That’s great, but what’s the ‘one thing’?”
Curly: [smiles] “That’s what you’ve got to figure out”

Just Start

This introduces my newest experiment: figure out what my ONE thing is…and I plan to do that by writing more regular posts. Same types of content, just shorter and more regular. My current plan is to attempt to post content every other day or so and focus solely on keeping the schedule.

I’ll be keeping these posts separate, under the category: daily.

Life Lessons From the Movie Inside Out

Having young kids is incredibly rewarding. Not only do you get to watch little replicas of you grow up, you get to learn a lot about yourself along the way. There’s no better way to learn a good life lesson than to watch a Disney movie with your kids. These movies are entertaining for little ones, but are packed full of life lessons for the big kids too.

One of new my favorites is Disney/Pixar’s – Inside Out

Don’t worry, this isn’t a movie review. If you have not seen the movie, no spoiler alerts here. Although, if you haven’t, you should definitely give it a go. It’s the story of a middle-school-aged girl, Riley, that is struggling with her recent move to a new city. All of her fun memories are from her previous home and with all of the change, she is struggling to make any new ones.

Life Lessons

The following are a few life lessons that have come up in conversation with our family after seeing the movie. I imagine there are many more, so I would encourage you to share any fun conversations you’ve had with your family/friends, at the end of this post.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Change is inevitable’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Change is inevitable[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons ChangePeople, places and things. They all come and go. Even those things that do “stay” in our lives change as well. The most important part of all of this change is not to prevent it or encourage it. It is important to learn how to handle it appropriately.

Change means growth and it’s important to remember that when we encounter undesired changes in our lives. We can alway look back at the past and remember “better” times, but the future is where all of the new opportunities will be.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Don’t avoid anger just control him’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Don’t avoid anger, just control him[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons Anger

We all have it. That nasty little voice in our head that takes over in heated situations. Anger can often get us into trouble, but it can also play a positive role in our lives as well.

Think of anger like energy. Too often, anger is released in the form of negative out-bursts of physical or verbal actions, often hurting the feelings of others. However, if it can be controlled and “leveraged”, it can be used for personal gains too, like working out, cleaning the house, etc. Our family get some of its best cleaning done when we’re angry.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Know the risks with shortcuts’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Know the risks with taking a shortcut[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons Shortcuts

Shortcuts are great things. They are created when people understand a complete process and then create or discover alternative methods to reach the same/similar outcome. The rationalization behind using a shortcut is what makes human minds more superior than any other being.

However, there is always risks associated with shortcuts. Those risks are around understanding the potential known or unknown consequences. This requires analysis of EACH given situation, the context, etc. A shortcut that works one time, might not be the right decision a second time.

Being sure to think and talk through the unique situation with your family or team will help you avoid consequences that could set you back from achieving your goals.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Sadness can be an acceleration to happiness’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Sadness can often be acceleration to happiness[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons Sadness

Grieving is an important part of life. Trying to be “tough” or avoiding these types of feelings can have a significant negative reaction later in life. Often people who are sad are seen as week, but after seeing the movie, it’s clear that sadness could arguably be the hero.

Forcing ourselves to be happy all the time only delays us from addressing the root challenges we are facing. By addressing emotions when we are confronted as soon as possible, it can often lead to an acceleration of returning to happiness.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Great ideas come from unusual places’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Great ideas can come from unusual places[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons Ideas

We all know someone that likes to share ideas with us and we, unfortunately, frequently brush those ideas off based on some other factors.

Many entrepreneurs will tell you that they carry a notebook with them and encourage ideas from EVERYONE. It’s not that those ideas are perfect at first blush, but they are real and authentic and for sure already align to someone else’s personal perspective.

Other people have this unique ability to offer a perspective that we (ourselves) can’t see. We are often too close to our own problems to solve them. In other words, we often are THE problem.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Running away just temporarily distances you’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Running away just temporarily distances you from your problems[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons Running Away

Running from problems only temporarily distances you from them. Eventually the problems, and your emotions associated with them, will catch up with you. And likely, they will be much harder to address in the future too.

Acknowledging problems and confronting them head on can be a much quicker resolution. Tackling them head on can lead to a positive outcome, but it strengthens your ability to handle problems again in the future.


[tweet_box design=”default” url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘Communication is still key’ and other Life Lessons from Disney’s Inside Out @erickraus”]Communication is still the key to solving problems[/tweet_box]

Life Lessons Communication

Through all the changes going on in the main character’s life, she struggles to find someone, even her own parents, to communicate her feelings with. Having an outlet for your thoughts can be a very important part of dealing with life and changes in it.

There are several strategies that can help people with sharing there ideas. People can talk with family, friends or even engage with a professional therapist. There’s no shame in taking control of being successful in your life. Talking to a therapist doesn’t make you weak. Those who just let problems happen to them, and don’t take action, that’s a stronger sign of weakness.

Additionally, many people find value in activities like Journaling. It can be a great private outlet of your emotions and can also be therapeutic by allowing you to later reflect on your thoughts.


What about you?

Have you seen the movie? What other lessons have you taken away about life, success, etc?

What Climbing Mt Rainier Taught Me About Setting Goals

In August, I had the opportunity to step foot on the 5th largest peak in the contiguous United States. How would I describe it? Epic.

Mt. Rainier is not only a difficult & technical climb, it is used as a training mountain for higher peaks of the Himalayas. Those who have reached the summit will tell you, it is both physically and mentally enduring.

So what grand lessons did I learn from this adventure? Lots. But the most analogous were those to my personal life and career, specifically around goal setting.

Read More …

Responsive Resolutions 2016

Here’s something new to try for 2016.  Instead of one big “new year’s resolution”, try creating 12 monthly “responsive” resolutions.

The Old Way

The challenge with trying to tackle one big resolution for a whole year is that it gets harder and less beneficial as the year goes on. Resolutions you start at the beginning of the year will rarely be the same goals you would end the year with. Life goes on and we change. So should our goals and commitments.

Responsive Resolutions

Responsive Resolutions seeks to fix the problems with year-long resolutions and the reason why many people start strong, but fade out over the year. With Responsive Resolutions, the focus is on smaller, achievable monthly goals that align to a longer-term vision or lifestyle change.

For example, a common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. However, a better long-term lifestyle change would be to “be healthy”. With that as the “vision”, each month you can create goals like working out, avoiding sweets, etc. It will be much easier to keep these commitments for a month which will keep your motivation up while not boiling the ocean for a whole year.

[tweet_box design=”box_01″ url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow’ -George S Patton #responsiveResolutions”]”A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” -George S. Patton [/tweet_box]

3 Steps to Responsive Resolutions

1. Reflect on a long-term “Vision” or aspiration you want to aim for *

Where do you want to be in 1, 3 or 5 years? What does your career look like? Who are you friends with? What kind of physical health are you in? It is critical that you are emotionally connected to this vision in some way. If not, the chances of success are significantly reduced.

2. Reflect on the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Set the first month’s resolution

What do you need to start today? Really…today. Also, what do you need in order to set yourself up for other months down the road? Your first month doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t try to over do it. Start small and focus on commitment. Being successful is more important than being perfect.

Remember the Patton quote.

3. Do not over plan! Get started and adjust as you go

In the last week of each month, while reflecting on the success or failures of the current month, choose a new resolution for the next month. It is important not to pre-plan all 12 months of resolutions/goals ahead of time. Like the name implies, the idea is to be responsive to what is or isn’t working in your life and use the “agile” methodology to help hone in what you need at that time.

In the last week of each month, while reflecting on the success or failures of the past month, you then choose a new resolution for the next month. It is important not to pre-plan all 12 months of resolutions ahead of time. Like the name implies, the idea is to be responsive to what is or isn’t working in your life and modify what you need at that time to continue toward your vision.


* Pro Tip: If done well, you will never actually achieve your vision. What?!?  Over time, as you are accomplishing your goals and reflecting more, you should be continually evolving your vision. It will grow as you do.

I gained a lot from doing this activity last year, so I’m excited to share my journey again for 2016. I, and a few others, will be updating Twitter frequently with #responsiveResolutions hashtag.


What do you think of this idea?

Like it? Disagree with it? Share your thoughts below.

Ask Stupid Questions…Please!

The local Microsoft Technology Center has a mantra of “No guessing”…and I love it. All engagements start out with a level-set that in order for the effort to be successful, all assumptions must be validated and no concerns left unaddressed. I have really enjoyed this collaborative ‘mandate’. There is a level of efficiency AND effectiveness that comes with the removal of all the usual barriers.

However, this level productivity maturity only comes when people talk. “No guessing” is a theme that manifests itself through full transparency (and that means everyone). This means people need to speak up when they have doubts and when they disagree. And yes, as you can imagine, great listening skills are still valued, and needed.

I recently read a fascinating quote by Abraham Lincoln via a blog post by Simon Terry:

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Unfortunately, many of us belong to a culture that still feels they cannot be seen as vulnerable. I see it every day…and I’m admitting…I fall victim too. We lie, exaggerate and cheat ourselves by making it appear as if we’ve got everything under control and aligned to a solid vision. In reality, we could all use some type of help. And especially when we are part of a team…ego is the antithesis to team.

Those people who ask questions and never let doubts or concerns fester often end up helping the entire team move forward faster toward its goals.