Don\’t Multi-Task… FOCUS

July 1, 2010 | Business, Business Tools, Communication | Beth Schneider-Wachner

By Mike Callaghan, Process Prodigy Contributor

Over the Christmas holidays I visited my sister and her family.   My two teenage nephews received Guitar Hero under the tree and got quite a chuckle out of watching their "rhythmically challenged" uncle (me) try, time and again, to beat them in this computer-age musical battle.   Even with my years of experience playing air guitar back in my college days, I was no match for my 14 and 16 year-old nephews.   That is, except for when they were texting on their cell phones AND performing as rock legends.   Yes, it's true, I did win Guitar Hero twice.

In this day and age we are bombarded with the message that "business is moving faster than ever" and encouraged to buy new technology just to keep up with the latest technology! We have to network with our peers, professional associations and potential customers by phone, email, text, blogs, wikis, websites and Facebook...well, I say, STOP!   Instead of teaching kids of the MTV generation to multi-task in order to be more productive, I believe we need to teach them to focus on one task at a time and manage their time more efficiently.   My example of Guitar Hero and texting may seem like a stretch for business, but how many times have you caught yourself talking on the phone, reading an e-mail and checking to see who just paged you all at the same time?   And how many of those three things did you do well?   Multi-tasking may be the buzzword of our time, but it does not work well when you are running and building a business.

Instead of "multi-tasking", we should practice time management.   Do one thing at a time and focus your full attention on that task.   You will find that it takes less time to complete that task and it is done better overall.   Here are three methods for stopping the multi-tasking and allowing for more good more work to be done in the same amount of time.

Handle each piece of paper just once.   Begin with the desk in front of you and start with the pile in your inbox.   Whatever the piece of paper on top of the pile is, read it, determine if it requires immediate action by you, needs to be delegated to someone else, or should be filed for future reference.   Do not set it to the side and do not get distracted by a phone call, e-mail, or lunchtime.   Once you pick up a piece of paper act on it and carry through to completion.   You will find that you spend a lot less time sifting through your inbox and actually completing all your tasks.   If you have moved into the 21st century and do not have a paper inbox on your desk, use the same procedure for your e-mail inbox.   Do I need to reply or act on this message, forward this message to someone else, file or delete the message?   You will be surprised how much more effective you are at completing a task when that is your focus.

Manage your communication stream.   When we were in 1st grade, our teachers had us raise our hands because as Mrs Harpster told us, "I can only understand one of you at a time."   It is the same in today's fast paced business world, only instead of a room full of children all talking at the same time, you have people e-mailing, texting, paging, calling, and just popping in your office with a quick question.   Manage your communication; listen to all of your voice mails and call people back.   If an e-mail pops into your inbox in the middle of this process, ignore it until you are through handling the voice mails and phone calls, just as you would hold off a child speaking out of turn.   Begin the morning by going through each of your communication streams or go one step further and tell customers and/or employees which communication stream your prefer.   Some people I work with ask me to send them e-mail because it is easier for them.

No texting while playing Guitar Hero.

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