Why Multi-tasking Destroys Productivity
Dave Crenshaw wrote a book you need to read entitled, The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done.
Here are some excerpts:
“There is an illusion. The illusion is that technology, cell phones, e-mail, faxes, text messaging, and whatever is latest-and-greatest all make us more productive.
“The reality, though, is that these things will only make us productive if we take control of them.
“They are the servants. We are the masters. If we do not protect our time, we will allow ourselves to be run over by the traffic of information.”
His book makes the point that our brains can really only do one thing at a time. What we really do is “switch-tasking” where we switch back and forth between two or more activities. He says this tires the brain thus lowering our overall productivity.
I fight this all the time when I’m at my computer. Constantly checking email, Skype beeps for chats, and incoming calls from my receptionist. This bestselling book, and it’s sequel, Invaluable: the Secret to Becoming Irreplaceable, should help.
I’m reading Invaluable chapter by chapter as I drive down the freeway. Just kidding, of course.
You will make points with your clients if follow one of my better habits. My cell phone is on manner mode 99% of the time and always during the business day. I guess 1% of the time I’m playing Ultimate Frisbee at the park and need to hear my phone ring.
You’d be surprised how appreciated clients feel when the manner mode goes off and I reach down to touch the button to put the caller into voice mail. Without even looking to see who’s calling me. Even after the client grants me permission, “Go ahead and take the call.” I tell them “I’m talking to you now” and they like that. And I let him know I’ll ignore their calls when I’m speaking with someone else.
This is the cell phone application of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe that’s why they called it “manner mode” back in the early ’80’s when cell phones came out.
My wife and I have a signal that tells me it’s an emergency so take the call now. I’d tell you what it is but you might be tempted to interrupt me when I’m talking to another client!
Think about it. Let’s say I take the call from another client, prospect, vendor, or partner while I’m speaking to someone else. Either it’s a problem and I’ll be thinking of a solution. Or great news and I’ll be thinking happy thoughts. Or it’s simply a bother and I’ll be wondering why it couldn’t wait.
Radios can be tuned to two different frequencies if they overlap slightly. You can hear 2 different songs or a song and a commercial. Tough to listen to. But possible.
Your brain can really only be tuned into one conversation at a time. Either with the person you’re speaking with. Or the person calling you. Or texting you. Or instant messaging you.
Dave Crenshaw say “background tasking” won’t hurt our productivity. Some examples of background tasking include:
- Eating dessert while watching a video
- Reading a magazine while doing 3 miles on the treadmill
- Listening to a how-to audio CD while driving
- Whistle while you work (Remember Snow White?)
Task #1: Give 100% attention to the person you are with. This could be a client, a prospect, a friend, an employee, your spouse or a child. Get ready to shock them!
Task #2: Give each task 100% attention until you get it DONE. Then move on to the next task. Tell your receptionist when you cannot be interrupted. Have her schedule call backs with clients. You’ll get more accomplished each day. Now get to work!