Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Multitasking Is Good (or Bad) for Business

The Harvard Business Review has a daily blog alert you can subscribe to, that carries a variety of interesting topics, one of the latest being Multitasking. When is it good or bad for your business and your life?

David Silverman says it's absolutely necessary for a number of reasons:

1. To get critical information to others so they don't waste time working on something with pieces missing.

2. It keeps others from being held up.

3. It gives you something to turn to when you're stuck. Sometimes walking away from a project for a while, brings fresh ideas on return.

4. The higher up you are in an organization, the more important multitasking is. You need to oversee many aspects of the organization.

I've always prided myself in being able to juggle many projects at the same time. My mind is constantly considering what needs to be done for each project and I often find myself doing a little of everything at once.

For example, we're doing some major home renos right now, which require decisions and then action to buy new light switches, paint, lamp shades or ceiling fans. In the midst of that, I'm calling to make appointments to discuss Usana with a new business associate. Then, someone calls or e-mails me for information on a particular health condition. Do I stop what I'm doing, find the information and get it to them? Probably. They expect a quick answer and I feel obligated to provide it.

That's business, that's life, you say. You can get good at multitasking.

Then, Peter Bregman, another blogger at the Harvard Business Review, says heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers.

He decided to take one week to do no multitasking and see what happened.

1. He found it delightful....
to be more deeply engaged with his children, for instance, without interruptions in thought or action.

2. He made significant progress on challenging projects.

3. His stress dropped dramatically.

4. He became laser-focused on getting things done, with no tolerance for wasted time.

5. He had tremendous patience for things he felt were useful and enjoyable.

6. There was no downside.
No projects were left unfinished. No one became frustrated with him for not answering a call or failing to return an email the second he received it.

For one year, I engaged a coach from MLM University. She introduced me to some important time management concepts that dealt with multitasking.

1. Set times aside when you check e-mails and phone messages.
You are not a slave to them.

2. Schedule times to make appointments and to call your business associates.

3. Plan what is most important to be accomplished in your day and get those tasks completed first.

There's much more to this topic of course. For instance, I write my blog posts first thing in the morning or later at night, when I have uninterrupted thought. (Of course, this morning, I'm drinking my Nutrimeal breakfast shake and taking my supplements while writing....whoops....multitasking!)

Now, I have to get ready to visit a friend who has been very ill and wants to explore which Usana products would be best for her. That's a priority in my day. And I plan to concentrate on listening without interruption, to give her the best of myself.

What have you found about multitasking? I'd love to read your comments.

Oh, the address for the Harvard Business Review daily blog posts? or the website:

Deanna Waters 1-888-320-8250

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