Multitasking, a misused term! How to put your real multi-tasking power to good use!

“Do not multitask. I’m going to tell you what you already know. Trying to brush your teeth, talk on the phone, and answer e-mail at the same time just doesn’t work. Eating while doing online research and instant messaging? Ditto. If you prioritize properly, there is no need to multitask. It is a symptom of “task creep”—doing more to feel productive while actually accomplishing less. As stated, you should have, at most, two primary goals or tasks per day. Do them separately from start to finish without distraction. Divided attention will result in more frequent interruptions, lapses in concentration, poorer net results, and less gratification”  Tim Ferriss – The 4hr workweek

Multitasking is a term I constantly find people overuse and misuse.

I have seen this especially with people who are eager to prove that they have the ability to do everything at the same time.

Recent research highlights that “trying to focus on more than one thing at a time causes a 40% drop in productivity” (see below infographic for more research outcomes on the effects on this kind of  “multitasking”).

Moreover, the outcomes of “multitasking” is usually outcomes that are sub-optimal in quality. This of course creates more work negating the perceived “benefits” of saving time through Tim Ferriss’ described “multitasking” anyway.

The art of focus management is very important. More so, when you are working in an open office environment where distractions are very common and beyond anyone’s control.

Let’s see what the right way to think about multitasking is and a few tips on how to avoid disruptions as well as a presentation explaining a popular productivity method that can assist towards better focus management.

caffeinating, calculating, computerating

MULTI-TASKING

So, do we not focus on multitasking as a key skill for the modern professional?

Of course we do, but we need to redefine the term.

“MULTI-TASKING can be defined as the ability to work on multiple projects within the same span of time e.g. Have multiple projects on the run, but not at the same time”.

Good organisational skills, good action and project management skills are essential to achieve this.

It is obvious that the quality of work is in the effectiveness and efficiency by which we approach a task or project. Hence, we have to always look at these two terms working in tandem.

Efficiency means that you choose the right steps to the desired result and effectiveness is the fact that you get to the result.

Remember good old Einstein:

Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler”.

STEPS FOR INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS FOR MULTI-TASKING

1. Focus Management – Select periods to work on specific projects and tell your colleagues that you do not want to be disturbed during this time. Select symbols to denote that this is your “mental focus time” e.g. A do not disturb sign always works 🙂

2. Become aware of where you dedicate time during the week. Eliminate the tasks that do not have an effect on the business and are just noise (meetings you do not need to attend and email people copy you in for the shake of been copied in are just some examples).

3. Work on your ABCs i.e

  • A- Tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT come first,
  • B- Tasks that are IMPORTANT but not URGENT come next and
  • C- the rest can wait.

4. Set out a time to review tasks and prepare a list of steps that need to be done (David Allen’s Getting Things Done method is highly recommended). The below presentation briefly describes this method:

 

OTHER RESOURCES

The below infographic gathers some research that proves that the multitasking as described by Tim Ferriss above is not efficient nor effective.

 

Multitasking

The Perils of Multitasking – infographic by onlinecollege.org

 

Image courtesy of Ryan Ritchie / flickr.com

About George Vrakas
George Vrakas (MBA, CCMP, CMILT) is highly reputed in the fields of Contract and Relationship Management as well as, Services Procurement and Logistics with extensive experience in Contract Management, Procurement and Supply Chain. George is passionate about Contract Management, Procurement, Innovation, Continuous Improvement, Exploring trends that will shape the Future, Team Development and the Modernisation and Automation of processes. George is a member of IACCM. George is the author of www.georgevrakas.com blog and has presented on Globalisation, Procurement and Continuous Improvement at various venues and Universities in Victoria, Australia.

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