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To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, people have got to know their limitations.

Amid all the media stories of disengaged and burned out employees, less attention has been paid to the fact that CEOs, executives and managers also face work overload. The world of VUCA impacts us as well, and many of us turn to multitasking to deal with all that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Unfortunately, for years (see here and here and here), researchers have been telling us that multitasking is a myth. People – yes, C-suite, I’m looking at you, too – who think they are great at multitasking actually are less productive and make more mistakes. Multitasking is mental juggling, and as this video shows, there is a limit to how many things a human being can juggle.

Sometimes, that juggling act crashes down on my to-do list as well.

I routinely answer and compose emails at all hours of the week to lead Tompkins Leadership and Tompkins Ventures and remain connected with not only our small core staff, but our thousands of partners, clients and contacts worldwide. That’s a lot of Michaels, Jims, Jills and Annas to keep in touch with, making it easy to direct the right assignment to the wrong person with a quick hit of the email “send” button.

Doubling down and replying “take a shot” when the assignment is questioned only compounds the problem.

Luckily, no harm was done, and after a day’s delay and an “oh wow!” moment, the right team got the right assignment.

So sometimes in an effort to go quicker you wind up going slower because you don’t do what you thought you did or what you wanted to do. I know my motto for years has been Go! Go! Go! And that still applies in our chaotic world.

But sometimes the secret to success can be as simple as stopping, thinking and taking decisive action.

As you may have read last week, so I can concentrate on Tompkins Leadership and Tompkins Ventures, I promoted COO Mike Royster to the newly created role of CEO. Even for a young fella like me, 75-hour workweeks can become a grind, and Mike will help me ease off a few hours.

There’s a nice line in this Psychology Today article about how much of burnout, particularly among the executive set, is self-inflicted:

“True ‘balance’ comes from an appreciation that we are fully engaging with the critical components of our lives, those people and activities – at home and at work – that fill us with a sense of meaning, and fulfillment, and wonderment, and joy. 

For me, true balance comes from a combination of work and family. A blog cannot explain the joy, exhilaration and wonderment I have felt over the last three years building Tompkins Leadership and Tompkins Ventures. But I still find time for my family, hockey games – and occasionally hiring a CEO to knock a few things off my to-do list.