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Value Creation Blog

Admit It…..You Can’t Multi-Task

Posted by Josh Patrick

Multi tasking resized 600Do you try to do more than one thing at once?  Do you think you’re really good at multi-tasking?  If so, you might want to think again.

We’ve managed to make our lives very complicated.  Between cell phones, email, text messaging, and work interruptions we’re always being pulled in one direction or another.  You might feel like you’re working harder, but getting less accomplished.  It’s time to start to think about how we spend our time and start putting some rules in place to help us simplify our lives.

Doing too much at once means we miss the really important stuff. 

When you have too many projects open at once you can miss the really important stuff.  I ask my coaching clients to only concentrate on one or two things at a time.  We have dozens of tactical things we have to do, but when it comes to strategic activities we should never have more than two we’re working on at once.

Your brain can only handle so many thoughts at one time.  When you have to leave things to start a new project you waste a lot of time.  Multi-tasking means you have to change your focus and change it quickly.  All of this change is tiring.  You spend a lot of mental energy stopping a task and starting another task.  Moving from one thing to another will tire you out and leave your energy level depleted.

You can’t talk on the phone and do emails at the same time. 

I know that I’m guilty of this.  I’ll be speaking with someone on the phone and then start to deal with emails that I don’t think require any concentration on my part.  Before I know it, I’m being asked a question that I have no idea what the answer is.

Not only can’t we do two things at once, we need to build time into our interactions where we can think about what happened after the conversation ends.  There is a good reason to take notes about a conversation when it’s complete.  You put yourself in the habit of thinking about the conversation you just had.  You’re giving yourself permission to think about what your next step should be.  Multi-tasking doesn’t allow you the opportunity to be efficient in thinking about what’s next.

If your customer is pre-occupied re-schedule your conversation.

If your customer or boss has a new problem or something has come up, let them deal with whatever is going on with them.  In this situation the person you’re dealing with is not likely to be listening to what you’re saying.  Trying to get any point across at this time is a non-productive activity.

You want others to be ready to listen and concentrate on the issue at hand.  This means they have to be ready to listen and not be thinking about something else.  Others will appreciate you giving them space.  You’ll find that when you give others space you create personal energy for what you have to accomplish.

You need to give yourself and others time to think.

After you make a presentation don’t ask for a decision.  The person you’re speaking with will need time to process the information that you’ve presented.  You might want to think about asking your partner to think about your conversation and set a time to discuss and review what you’ve talked about.

I find that when I provide others with a mind map as well as set a follow up time for a conversation, more gets accomplished in less time.  It’s important for us to understand how we think and process information.  Trying to pretend that we can do things in a manner where multi-tasking is the norm just means we spend more time getting less done.

The truth is we really aren’t able to multi-task.  What we think is multi-tasking is actually serial activities.  If you can make switches from one activity to another quickly, it’s still a serial activity.  Changing your mindset about this can help you become more effective and help others do the same.  Doesn’t it make sense to make your life less stressful?

We’ve put together a Periodic Table of Business Elements.  This chart has 56 different business strategies you could pursue.  You might find this an interesting chart to look at and decide what is your next strategic activity you would like to pursue.  You did notice that I said activity didn’t you?  To get our Periodic Table click on the button below.


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Topics: business coaching, value creation, communication, Focus

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