Coaching highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students: Improve one thing at a time

[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
A lot of students see the dots on the charts in their reports and decide they want to improve a few. In this chart, for example, they’ll look at all the dots below the line, think “Uh oh, I’m behind my peers in everything,” and decide to work on everything at once, or at least a few things.
360 Feedback: How others perceive you versus peers
Most coaches I’ve talked to about it agree working on one area at a time makes the best progress not just in the area you focus on but overall. This advice applies to all areas of personal and leadership development for any meaningful changes.

Why one at a time?

There are two main reasons to focus on one, both based in finding that focusing on too many things at once diffuses your attention.
First, it becomes easy to forget about or neglect one of them. My model is that if you juggle too many balls at once you tend to drop one. Or the more balls you juggle, the easier it is to drop one or all of them.
How do we determine that one is the limit of “too many”? From experience. Maybe you can work on more than one at a time without dropping any. If so, go for it, but I bet that skill will come with experience as you transform more areas of your life, not the first time, so if you haven’t been doing personal or leadership development stuff for a long time, I would start with one thing at a time.
Second, focusing on one thing at a time improves your effectiveness in that area. You improve it faster and more thoroughly.

What about the other areas? Does that mean giving up on them in the meantime?

On the contrary. I put to you that working on any area improves all areas because you don’t only develop in the area you focus on. You build experience and develop skills in improving yourself and that experience and those skills apply to all areas of improving yourself. I’ll write tomorrow about specific personal development skills.
Developing personal development skills makes future work simpler and faster.

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