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

Employee Engagement: Practical Tips for a more productive culture in the workplace – Presentation

Thanks to the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport Australia (CILT Australia) for hosting my webinar “Employee Engagement: Practical Tips for a more productive culture in the workplace” on the 26th November 2013. The presentation was very well received and the feedback and questions I got afterwards were thought provoking. For those that missed it this is the presentation. Additionally, the sound recording can be accessed by CILT Australia members here.

BACK UP RESOURCES

This presentation was the culmination of various posts and years of work. If you want to revisit the Employee Engagement concepts in more depth you can read more here, here and here. The Productive Culture Survey background can be found here, details about NPS surveys here, thoughts on the basic qualities of a effective team member here and thoughts on the basic qualities of an effective team can be found here and here. Finally, if you wanted a simple guide on how to go about innovating, similarly to what I have done with various elements in this presentation, to suit your own individual needs read this simple method here and here.

WEBINAR BRIEF AS PUBLISHED BY CILT AUSTRALIA:

Event Description:
What is the difference between motivation and employee engagement?
In this presentation the view that employee engagement should be the preferred target will be analysed.

Why is employee engagement important?
Practical ways to assess the Productive Culture in the workplace will be discussed.

What is the link between employee engagement and job satisfaction? What are the elements that constitute job satisfaction?

Practical examples on how these elements can be further stimulated will also be in the offing as well as the opportunity to download free material that will assist you to assess the existent culture of your team and make your team more effective.

Guest Speaker:
George Vrakas (MBA, CMILT)

12 Essential Tools to maximise Productivity, Profitability, Employee Retention and Customer Satisfaction!

In previous posts (here and here) I explained how by using the concept of (Net Promoter Score) NPS you can establish  whether your notion of running a great Team / Organisation can be measured by this simple feedback loop.

But, how can you tell which areas you need to improve on when your internal NPS score is low?

Let’s look at a simple and practical method to do just that.

East Stroudsburg University

THE METHOD

The method I am suggesting is a simple 12 questions survey as detailed in Marcus Buckingham‘s books, “First Break All the Rules” and “Now, Discover Your Strengths”.

The survey was developed by the Gallup Organisation after their 25 year study of more than 1 million employees and 2,500 business units. What they found was a strong correlation between positive answers to this 12 question survey questionnaire and the below key business outcomes:

  • Productivity
  • Profitability
  • Employee retention and
  • Customer Satisfaction

THE GALLUP ORGANIZATION’S 12 QUESTION SURVEY:

    1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
    2. Do I have the materials to do my work properly?
    3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
    4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
    5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care for me as a person?
    6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
    7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
    8. Does the mission of my company/department make me feel like my work is important?
    9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
    10. Do I have a best friend at work?
    11. In the last six months have I talked with someone about my progress?
    12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

                                                                                                   Marcus Buckingham, First Break all the Rules

QUESTION CLUSTERS

As you have probably distinguished the above 12 questions form 4 distinct clusters:

  1. Questions 1 and 2 -> “What do I get as an employee?”
  2. Questions 3 to 6 -> “What do I give as an employee?”
  3. Questions 7 to 10 -> “Am I in the right place to make the greatest possible contribution?”
  4. Questions 11 and 12 –> “How can we all give as a group?”

NECESSARY CAVEAT:

As with any such survey, running a productive culture survey means that you have established trust within your Team so that the survey outcomes are useful.

The survey can be run anonymously. This is recommended especially, the first time you run it as this can be used as a benchmark.

Thereafter and provided that you have worked on overcoming any trust issues, it is recommended to seek eponymous feedback so, you can discuss specifics with the respondents afterwards.

 

[Image courtesy of East Stroudsburg University / www.flickr.com]


The 9 Elements of an Effective Team (Part 2)

Last week (Part 1), I listed the 9 Elements that make an effective team.

These are:

1) Clear Goals

2) Good Team Structure

3) Right Culture and Skillset selection

4) Trust

5) Good Communication

6) Positive relationships

7) Accountability

8) Leadership

9) Feedback

Then, I specifically explored the first 4.  Let’s now look at the remainder.

wpid-Photo-28-Sep-2013-229.jpg

5) Good communication – Establish the environment for thriving innovation, participation and motivation within the team environment.

Conflict will come about. The important thing is to address it straight away and not let it eat away the foundations of the team.

Focus on strengths, frequent, positive and constructive feedback.

6) Positive relationships

The leader should give the example of taking risks and accepting that not all things will succeed. Then, praise the successes and support the missed targets enabling the team to lift their performances to the circumstances.

Some simple tips:

●     Select team members wisely.

●     Make choices based on merit.

●     Open communication channels between the team members. Each team member learning about each other is important so that each one appreciates and supports each other.

7) Responsibility and Accountability

Giving credit where it’s due but also holding people fully accountable for their actions or in-actions is always important.

As Roger Connors et al. highlight in their great book “The Oz Principle

“Individual and organizational results of people improve dramatically when people overcome the deceptive traps of the victim cycle and take the Steps To Accountability.”

But how do you identify if your team has such issues  e.g. if the team is trapped in the “victim cycle”.

A good first step is to observe if any of below practices are existent during the team’s interactions. Does the team:

  1. Ignore an issue or deny an issue exists
  2. Displays a “It’s not my job” attitude
  3. Engages in “Finger Pointing”
  4. Displays a constant “Tell me what to do” attitude.

8) Leadership

Maintain the context and scope of the team’s existence relevant and current to the shifting organisational goals.

Communicate the purpose and engage with each team member so that everybody understands how they fit in the wider picture and why what they do matters and affects the success of the company.

Lead by example!

9) Feedback.

Feedback is the underlying factor that ties everything together.

Unless there is a clear positive mechanism for non judgmental feedback loops then errors get repeated and eventually all the 8 other elements get affected.

A great feedback model can be found (here).

CONCLUSION AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

So, it seems that despite the varying nature of teams nowadays there are some elements that are common for every successful team.

Creating an effective team unit aims at a simple target best elaborated by Jim Collins when he described “superior work environments” this way:

“When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results.”

The above may seem quite intimidating at first but as suggested here, focusing on one thing at a time you will find that, not before long, the team will start entering the virtuous circle of effectiveness.

You can also find more resources on Team Development in previous posts dealing with measuring employee satisfaction, 3 essential targets for employee engagement, as well as, some thoughts on employee motivation versus employee engagement and why the latter is the real target.

Are there other elements you believe to be crucial for effective teams?

[Image credit: 123rf.com]