You would think that tunnel vision or single-mindedness would be incompatible with the Pluralist lifestyle but in my experience it is in fact a vital component of a successful portfolio career – the trick is to have several tunnels.
Whilst the lawyer or surgeon hones their skill through repetition and ever-deeper exploration into their field, the Pluralist must juggle a range of expertise and commitments without giving the impression of inattention. Each role the Pluralist takes on must be wholeheartedly undertaken but must also fit in with a whole lot of other roles so that there is connection but also focus.
My experience is that the only way to achieve this is to be strict with one’s time, clear about one’s commitment and to prioritise internally – have a bit of tunnel vision. This is easier said than done, when we are constantly interrupted by our phones, colleagues and families. Those of us who do most of our work at home will be aware that recourse to the spare room, shed or even headphones only takes us so far but wherever you are based, organisation is key. Talking to members of the Pluralists Club has, for me, highlighted these tactics:
- Timeslots are a good way of keeping on top of lists. It’s no good having a catalogue of tasks if they are going to consume more hours than you have available, so it is important to be realistic about how long things will take to do. Keeping to a timescale can help us to focus on the task in hand, safe in the knowledge that the other things trying to claim our attention will get their turn in due course.
- Thinking time is often the hardest thing to find but one of the most important. Journeys by train, car or plane can provide useful headspace, though for some they are a golden opportunity to catch up on the laptop. For many, a long walk can be the perfect way to think things through, for others it is during exercise, in the bath or whilst cooking. The trick is to remember or note all your thoughts …. and to bear in mind that down time is important too; we shouldn’t be thinking about work ALL the time.
- Sometimes it’s worth setting something aside for a period. If you are struggling to concentrate because of the all the projects claiming your attention and the thing you really ought to do is being pushed aside, then maybe you need to leave it until you are able to give it the focus it needs.
- We need to be realistic about how much we can take on. A good Pluralist will have plenty of projects on the go but they will commit to those projects properly. Taking on new things because it is flattering to be asked or it’s a little bit more cash can easily lead to overload and the Pluralist who can’t deliver is just wasting everyone’s time.
Multitasking is all very well – I do it all the time – but there are things you can only do when you devote all your attention on them, whether that’s for a few hours, a few days or weeks and months. Pluralists need to be on top of their game all the time which sometimes means keeping your games separate, so do a quick audit of your commitments and then devote yourself to them … one at a time.