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The Truth About Multitasking

Mark Twain said “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I heard another version of that the other day which stated that wait, 87.4%...of all statistics are made up on the spot! So, according to Dave Crenshaw in his book titled, “The Myth of Multitasking,” the 21st century version of Mark Twain’s quote is, “There are lies, damned lies, and multitasking.”

I am inclined to agree on this one as I see more and more people trying to do it all and getting fewer things done. We have a lot of technology at our fingertips and yet many people still struggle with focus, time management, and priority management. The lessons many of us have yet to learn is that our brains are not like a computer that can switch simultaneously from program to program or task to task in the blink of an eye. 

The ultimate sin is when others experience you not giving 100% of your attention. They might start to think you don’t care and maybe that’s how you do things. They might start to correlate that the work you would do for them could be less than they expect or more importantly, deserve!  T. Harv Ecker says, “How you do anything is how you do everything”.  The question is, “How do you want your friends, associates and customers to perceive you?”

The book draws a great distinction between switch-tasking and background-tasking. Switch-tasking is really what multitasking is. It’s when you’re trying to perform two or more tasks that require mental focus and effort, such as answering email while talking with an employee, or reviewing financial statements while speaking with a client on the phone. Background tasking is when you perform two or more tasks where only one of those tasks requires mental effort.  A couple of examples would be eating dinner and watching TV or jogging and listening to music. Switch-tasking is always less efficient and less effective.  Background-tasking on the other hand, has the potential to be efficient and effective.

Lastly, here are a few points to remember to keep you focused and more productive.  Set some time parameters in your calendar to complete your daily tasks and projects.  Don’t allow interruptions like email, text messages or voicemail to distract you. After all, the reason we have all this communication technology available to us is to allow us to be more efficient and effective in everything we do, right?  Just because the phone rings or email chimes doesn’t mean you have to respond immediately.  I would recommend informing your clients or customers that you check your messages at certain times of the day and you will reply accordingly.  When you meet with people, whether it’s your friends, staff, boss, or customers, give them 100% of your attention and focus and observe how they respond to you.  It might surprise you how much you can accomplish when you pay attention and really listen. More importantly, you will be perceived as someone who truly cares about people and that’s the kind of news that’s worth spreading around. 

Have a very focused and productive week.

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