Time Management Expert, Event Speaker: Mark Lamendola

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Productivity Knowledge Base: Multitasking. Cure or curse?

Many time management "experts" tell you how to multi-task. Others tell you to avoid it as much as possible. Who is right? A thoughtful examination will reveal the answer, and it will show you how to boost efficiency and productivity.

Let's take a sample situation. Dave and Debbie are sales people. They have vastly different styles.

Here's a conversation Dave is having with a customer, via his cell-phone, while driving between appointments.

Dave: "Yeah, Carol. This is Dave at ACME Construction. Hello?"
Carol: "I'm here. I missed part of what you said, but I know it's you. Do you have the figures on that bid you were going to send us?"
Dave: "No, not yet. I...."
Dave: "Sorry about that. Cellphone cut out on me. You wanted what?"
Carol: "We have an update. Are you ready to take down some information?"
Dave: "Sure. Let me cradle this phone and prop some paper on the steering wheel."

The above scenario is typical. Dave is just responding, just coping with inflow. And he's very dangerous while on the road. Now, let's look at Debbie.

Debbie: "Hi, Carol. This is Debbie at ACME Construction. I'm actually traveling right now, but I took a break to look after my clients. I just got off the phone with Roger at the office and he's e-mailing you our bid. Is there anything else you need?"
Carol: "Yes, there were some changes we needed to make."
Debbie: "Well, I am sitting here with my laptop fired up and your account file open. Fire away, and I'll make it happen."

Which of the two is going to make a better impression on Carol, not to mention the Highway Patrol? In just this small example, we saw that Dave's multitasking created a dismal performance, while Debbie's ability to focus allowed her to fully serve her customer.

The human mind is composed of several functional areas. Each of these areas is capable of doing only one thing at a time. Tasks like driving and writing cannot be done simultaneously. You have to switch between them. There is some switching cost in processing power every time your mind switches between tasks. When you are trying to carry on a phone conversation and read e-mail, this becomes readily apparent. Not only is it rude, but it requires you to take more time to have the conversation and read the e-mail than if you did the tasks separately.

When multitasking results in a performance hit, you can arrive at an efficiency of zero. For example, a customer calls Dave. Dave is busy multitasking, and the customer--now feeling like Dave isn't listening, takes his money elsewhere.

For electrical contractors, multitasking can literally be the kiss of death. When electricians are around energized circuits, they cannot be talking about their outside interests or engaging their minds in anything other than the work at hand. Another word for multitasking is "inattention." Keep that in mind, and you'll be much further ahead.

Finally, consider that a core concept in martial arts is summed up in one word: Focus.



Do you want to radically improve how well people in your organization make use of the limited number of hours in each work day?

Contact me to arrange a time when we can talk about a presentation: mark@mindconnection.com. Why arrange a time? So I can give you full attention during the call. There's a really powerful time management tip. Ask me why it works.