February 1, 2012

The Multi-Tasking Mistake

BY John Paul Narowski IN Productivity 0 Comment

With the high speed that the business world often requires us to operate at, we find ourselves trying to keep up by multitasking our lives. Have you ever found yourself writing a document on your laptop while talking to a customer on your phone? Have you ever stopped to consider how many words you got confused between the two tasks?

More than likely there were several. Between having to go back and correct your typing errors or stopping to rethink what you just said, multitasking can actually slow us down and be nothing more than counterproductive when it comes to business.

multitaskingMultitasking, put simply, occupies your mind in such a way that you can’t focus on any of your tasks effectively. How often do you lose valuable sales time “redoing or reviewing” something?  This hinders your accounts, affects customer service which adversely affects customer satisfaction.

For a demonstration of how counterproductive multitasking can be, try this simple exercise:

In Dave Crenshaw’s book, The Myth of Multitasking – How Doing it all Gets Nothing Done, he shares this eye opening exercise – Type the alphabet while you count to 26 out loud. Sounds easy enough, especially since those are things we learned as young children. But when you combine the two efforts that would require two separate trains of thought, it can become very difficult for anyone to accomplish without error. Now simplify your effort by saying the alphabet as you type it. Because your mind is fully focused on what you’re doing, your task becomes easier, more efficient, and the quality is consequently better.

This is the true definition of multitasking. This is very different when compared to listening to a message while you drive home or riding your bike while you mentally go over your day’s agenda. As Dave Crenshaw speaks of in his book, The Myth of Multitasking – How Doing it all Gets Nothing Done, this is called “Background tasking” and is effectively possible because your mind does not use as much effort to process certain tasks such as riding your bike down a familiar road or cooking your favorite dish in your own kitchen.

Managing your time effectively

How do you solve your multitasking problems? The first thing is to understand when, where, and how you multitask. Perhaps you find yourself opening multiple windows on your computer to start multiple projects at the same time, and now your mind is no longer focused on the reason for your first project. Then, as your day proceeds, rather than work on and finish the first task, you transfer and work on two or three others at the same time. This habit sets you up to multitask, and this is something you must avoid.

To avoid setting yourself up to multitask, create a schedule for your day. You have five projects to accomplish for the day, and while it may seem more time efficient to juggle two or three, you’ll just find yourself having to reset your mind for the different tasks each time you change. Though it may only take seconds to switch your focus onto another thought, your mind can take much more time than that to begin to truly focus its efforts onto your new task. This is why it is important to manage your time effectively.

  • Arrange your particular tasks
  • Account for breaks and phone call returns

Time, just like money, if finite.  How are you spending your daily time budget? Are you a good steward of it or looking at your lengthy “to do” list with one item completed on it wondering “where did all the time go”?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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