3:18pm. Restate my assumptions.

  1. Switching tasks may bring creative or subconscious approaches not seen when staying focused on a single task. Evidence: Kekulé’s dream of the structure of benzene; my need for a whiteboard in the bathroom.
  2. Staying on a task to the exclusion of all others is unrealistic.
  3. Switching tasks too often, or switching among too many tasks, reduces overall productivity. Evidence: Psychological studies of mental switching costs.
  4. As the number of tasks grows and the timeslices of attention given to each shrinks, total productivity approaches zero.
  5. The graph of total productivity to number of tasks follows a poisson distribution.

I’m becoming convinced that there is a rule of thumb, if not an actual formula, for the optimal number of tasks or priorities, and very possibly for the optimal frequency of task-switching for maximum productivity.

Companies with simple, clear brands do better than those with confused or complex brands. Do companies with simpler mission statements (“Don’t be evil“?) do better too? Do companies with fewer products or product lines do better than the diversified?

I’m going to start gathering evidence to put my gut here to the test. Is there a quantifiable Return on Focus for individuals and firms, or am I just whistling in the dark shadow of a giant kibosh?