Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Of course you can!
Not only that but you can also talk on your cellphone, eat lunch, hold a conversation with your friend walking beside you (who is simultaneously thumbing away like a fiend on his BlackBerry), adjust your tie and avoid oncoming pedestrians.
You’re a Master Multitasker.
And guess what? You’re not productive.
The New York Times is reporting research done by a couple of scientists that shows the detrimental affects of multitasking on productivity.
It makes sense. We’re inundated with email, phone calls and instant messages. We’re constantly connected which has many advantages; one of which is not productivity.
We’re all insanely pressed for time, working harder, working longer hours. Maybe we wouldn’t have to if we stopped multitasking as much.
Entrepreneurs are fond of using the juggler to represent their lives. “Do you know how many balls I’m juggling?”
We know this is true, we know that entrepreneurs always have a thousand things on the go.
But I would much prefer to use the biathlon to shape my thoughts on productivity and multitasking.
It’s not a well-known sport, but the biathlon goes like this — cross-country ski like a maniac from target to target, and shoot like a sniper with a rifle as quickly as you can. From Point A to Point B. Get something done with laser-focus at each stop.
You’ll never stop multitasking – it’s impossible. It’s the way we are. But, I’ve been focusing a great deal on getting things done lately and staying focused, and here’s a few recommendations:
- End Your Day Making a List for the Next One. At the end of a work day make a to-do list of what needs to be accomplished the following day. You never want to wake up wondering, “What was I supposed to do today?” You want to jump right into things as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Listen to Loud Music. When it’s time to spend a few hours focused on something, try tuning into some loud music. I find loud music works to drown out other thoughts and helps me ignore what’s going on around me. It helps me stay focused on the task at hand. If the music is too quiet it’s just one more thing tugging at my mind.
- Turn Distracting Things Into Tasks. A number of things are ultra-distracting: checking email, networking/socializing (particularly online), reading blogs and catching up on the news. We do these things throughout the day, almost non-stop. Instead, turn these “endless to-dos” into actual tasks. “I’m going to spend 20 minutes clearing my backlog of email.” Or, “I’m going to get through my RSS feeds and make a list of topics to research further.” The point is to turn something that’s typically a distraction into a productive, goal-centric task.
- Give Yourself Time to Goof Off. No one is 100% productive all the time. It’s impossible. And you’ll find it next to impossible to stop multitasking. So don’t try to eliminate multitasking completely. Give yourself time during the day, when you’re getting a bit tired or during a snack break, to multitask like a madman. Chat online with friends, while surfing the Web, filing paperwork and organizing the photos on your computer. Multitask till your heart’s content. Just don’t try and do anything extremely important.
Multitaskers are proud of the fact that they can do a thousand things at once. But one has to wonder whether they ever finish anything, and whether the quality of their work is where it needs to be?
I’m a great multitasker, but I’d rather be a laser-focused, gun-toting biathlete with incredible speed and endurance.
Photo by cwg2007