It doesn’t seem too long ago that the person who showed themselves at being a very adept multitasker was someone to envy. These folks were often held up as an example of how much more productive we could be if we just mastered the ability and flexibility that would allow us to move quickly among the varied demands of the work for which we were responsible.
Actually, this has often been debated in the scientific world exploring the potential and real costs of this style of high productivity vs. those who go from one task to another in a totally focused manner. Although both groups feel they are ‘in control’ of themselves and their work … and whereas both groups get the jobs done, the underlying question is which approach is really the best … for the business and for the individual?
Today, we have been and continue to be bombarded with the onslaught of new technology and related methods of doing various tasks faster and hopefully more efficiently. To the ‘juggler’ these new ‘efficiency’ tools have imposed things into our days over which we have little, if
any, control and they carry with them the potential of taking us to an ‘out-of-control’ place. It’s the proud multitasker that is inclined to feel the greatest challenge in today’s world.
Gregg Swanson, the Warrior Mind Coach, wrote an article entitled” Multitasking – the Downfall of Modern Society”. I believe he makes some interesting observations that I want to share with you here. In it he refers to “the person at work; on the phone, e-mailing, IM-ing and talking to someone at their desk. This is insanity! We are so caught up with trying to do more that we are missing everything” He acknowledges all of the new technology that makes us more and more accessible however reminds us that we don’t have to respond for the requests of our time. He sees the desire and drive to multitask is driven by three key elements as follows:
- Fear of lack of time – “the cornerstone to the disease of MT” (multitasking)
The lack of time we feel is due to the deadlines or to-do lists that WE have created
- Projecting into the future
Rather than focusing on and doing the task at hand, we are also maintaining awareness of the ‘next’ tasks that we have to do which provides the reality of always being in a hurry
- I want to feel important
Say it like it is. In response to one asking how you are “I’m busy” is not the answer. Rather it’s “I’m important”. As Swanson says, “After all, isn’t that’s what we’re really trying to do by MT…is look (and feel) important
These things may all be true however the fact remains that multitasking is a demand of today’s work environment. And although the need is difficult to avoid, Mike Gardner, known as the Time Doctor, provides several tips for being successful in doing so as follows:
- Prioritize your work at the start of each day.
- Estimate how long each task will take to finish and stick as closely as you can to this.
- Try to group together tasks which can be worked on concurrently.
- Do not immediately jump to react to emails. Finish what you are doing first if you can.
- Try to take yourself away from distractions such as telephones, emails or colleagues If you have a task which is involved or complicated.
- Factor in some ‘reactive’ time. This can be a set hour each day, for example, when you will deal with any work which has arisen through the course of the day.
A great juggler has control over the things he/she is juggling. Yet today and given the ongoing conveyor belt of new technology designed to make us more and more efficient, we have many elements of our work over which we simply do NOT have control and therein lies the complication. Consciously incorporating the suggestions above give us all the opportunity of really thriving more effectively in the world in which we are living and that seems like a good goal given our limited ability to control it all.