I love being challenged, doing ten things at one time and doing them all well. Unfortunately, it really isn’t the most effective way to structure your day. When you multitask it’s easy to take your focus off what really matters.
The landscape is different when you reach mid-life, each moment becomes more precious. If, like me, you have big things you want to accomplish, it behooves you to stop multitasking and instead develop a laser-like focus on the things that really matter. Here are several problems with multitasking you should consider:
1. Wasted Time. Every time you allow yourself to be interrupted you are flushing precious minutes down the drain, and the total cost can be considerable by the end of the day. Studies show that it can take several minutes to bring yourself back to the level of concentration needed to actually tackle a given task. I would argue, it actually takes more time than that, because you often forget the next step in the process and have to redo several steps to get yourself back to where you were. Even worse, you might completely forget that creative idea you were nurturing, an idea you may never get back.
2. Fewer Accomplishments. When you work on one task at a time and bring that task to completion, you are able to accomplish much more in one workday than if you multitask. It may feel exciting to be busy or you may feel like you are making a lot of things happen, but when you allow multiple interruptions throughout your day, the reality is actually the opposite. Big picture issues get pushed off your desk for a tomorrow that could be weeks, sometimes months, away.
3. Energy Focused on the Trivial. When you create an atmosphere of focus you accomplish the important tasks at the expense of the trivial. It’s poetic justice that the trivial issues you used to deal with all day long wind up resolving themselves or being resolved by someone else. Instead of spending your time solving other peoples unimportant but urgent problems, start letting time and other people handle the mundane, you stay focused on the big picture and the tasks that will really drive your business forward.
4. Feeling Overwhelmed. Overwhelm is a productivity killer, because it replaces mental focus with a sense that you can’t get it all done. The feeling of overwhelm often causes people to procrastinate, and it winds up creating a work atmosphere where people work on a lot of little crises and nobody really moving the company forward. When you focus on getting the few really important items on your list completed, you start to build up a sense of momentum. This momentum excites your team and drives your motivation to tackle the next important task. At our company we have developed our “ROI and Action” template for moving meetings along quickly. When the chair of a committee has the opportunity to address the team they have 5 minutes to give the update that covers three things:
We start with accomplishments because that is the primary focus of our company, if you start anyplace else, its easy to get caught up in excuses. Ending with needs gets the team focused on sharing exactly what they need to move the project forward. Keeping the time short forces the important issues to the top and the trivial out the door.
Finally, moving from a world of multi-tasking to one of focus is easy. The Pomodoro Technique is just one example of a free resource available on the internet that makes time management simple. Spend a couple minutes learning the pomodoro technique and then start using the focus booster app to keep yourself on track.