I am HORRIBLE at multi-tasking. Absolutely awful at it, and it's gotten worse with age. What I lack in ability to focus on multiple tasks concurrently, I try to make up with hyper zombie-like persistence. Singlemindedness has its own challenges however; for example, I cannot watch a television program and carry on a meaningful conversation with my wife at the same time. This irritates her to no end - usually not a big deal to me as the only thing I hate to miss are sumo tournaments we watch on satellite TV. Just turn the damn thing off and zombie man will be able to converse again.
Right now, I'm taking a couple classes at a local private university - it's a continuing education thing. They are not cheap. It will sound like I'm bragging, and maybe I am a little, but I've become pretty good at the student-thing. All those years of school, and subsequent years of teaching have helped me develop a pretty good background knowledge/schemata for new material in the field of education. ...and I can focus. In class, the other students, most of them barely out of their teens, are busy carrying on a text conversation, updating their Facebook page, and tuning into class once in a while just long enough to get a handout or jot down a note or two. I, on the other hand, am letting the professor's words and PowerPoint slides wash over me like a dense fog that gradually soaks to the core as I listen, note, and process.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a critical period when it comes to developing attention-span. As the pre-frontal cortex matures, if the brain has not been given enough time and practice focusing without distraction, can the brain have enough impulse control to maintain sustained attention on things when it really matters? Will there be patience to see things through to completion, and resist the urge to panic and begin thrashing about even when things go unexpectedly?
In training, there are always distractions; the latest supplement, a new routine, a better piece of equipment. Things fall in and out of fashion in our little strength and conditioning world pretty quickly. There's nothing wrong with overhauling a program when its flat-out bad, but the constant search for new and different can be a significant distraction to focused training.
The middle path rests on a foundation that is deep, but it must be tended regularly. Constantly changing exercises and routines and expecting consistent growth is like learning how to bat with a putter while a major leaguer throws a myriad of fast balls, curves, sliders, and change-up pitches with balls ranging in size and heft from a pebble to a basketball. Fewer exercises with a greater attention to detail will carry most people further than they would ever believe.
Pitch it where they can hit it. Pitch consistently and pitch often.
Related Article (NPR): Think You're Multi-Tasking? Think Again