So You think you can really Multi-Task? You Are Wrong

This article was originally posted on Linkedin Pulse:

You think you can really Multi-Task? You Are Wrong?

Nov 5, 201540 views2 Likes0 CommentsShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Twitter
Are you that person at the business meeting hiding behind their notebook computer who is half listening to the rest of the team or a client?

Are you acting like you are listening, but really doing something else?

I worked with a guy like this. He would go to each in-person client meeting and while he listened to a customer he would look at his computer and type, chatting on skype, reading email.

His eyes rarely lifted off the keyboard, until he was asked a question. And when they did he would ask “Can you repeat the question?”

Gotcha!

Most customers did not suspect that he was doing other business. It seems perfectly acceptable for busy people to check up on their email, twitter, Instagram and Facebook occasionally, especially during meetings. But that is not the same as being a total scammer. Are you that person?

Are you looking at your smartphone, email, twitter right now, and multi-tasking as you read this article?
Is your smartphone 2 inches from your keyboard like mine, ready for you to jump on a call? On smartphone calls we’ve all figured out how to stay on the call and check our email, texts, Facebook and other apps simultaneously. I can even make a move on my Words With Friends game and keep in the conversation.

The Smartphone is a enabler of the Multi-Tasking Lifestyle!

We are all developing multi-tasking skills together as a society. But as you know multi-tasking is not a real thing for humans. The human mind therefor has to jump back and forth between whatever you are doing.

The human mind can really only do one thing at a time.
What we are doing more and more is everything not so well. In fact the more you multi-task the less focus you are giving per task and that is how we make mistakes.

Well, let’s think about the impact of the lack of focus and multi-tasking on our lives. One of the reasons I bring this up is I feel I don’t have much of a choice. I am working on 5 separate projects at least this week as a consultant, and therefor I have to mentally flip channels sometimes 5, 6 or 7 different times a day. Each client, each project, especially if there is a new conversation takes time to get into what they do.

You can flip mental channels, but I notice there is a price to pay. It’s your sanity. It’s the quality of whatever you are doing going down the drain!
Yet, like a tech-junky I keep taking on new projects. I really enjoy working with startups and new things. I always say to myself, why not give this new idea a try. I give away some of my personal bandwidth. If you know me, you know I am into helping startups in many different ways, and once again giving something new my attention.

There is a limitation for us personally.

Do you find yourself texting while driving or checking email while driving? It is deadly. I personally should not, but I feel I have to do it anyway. Luckily I don’t spend that much time on the road these days. We all feel the need to check on meetings we are traveling to make sure that we are not driving an hour for no reason. Next time I will just turn the phone off.

But what is the cost?

Well, for one, obviously texting and driving are a deadly combo. So, I am always aware of the risk and try to reduce it. But what about the mental cost of working on 7 separate businesses in a single week, or fishing through 200 emails a day, with 7 different ongoing ventures. It will scramble your brain. It is not a good thing. We have to if we want to work as consultants though.

We are all getting very skid-dish when our phone rings, tweets, and makes other sounds.

Are we now all Pavlovian dogs that respond when a sound bleeps?
I will wake up instantly in the middle of the night to that sound of a text message. We need to relax and stop listening for the sounds.

So what is the price to pay for doing this mental channel flipping? Are we going to burn out much quicker on work and technology and general?

Wish I could take off 2 weeks and spend those 2 week disconnected. Can’t right now. We have taken 3 or 4 cruises over the years which allow us to completely disconnect. It is the only answer really, but it has been a long time for us. Somehow you need to disconnect and consider focusing.

Think about doing the following periodically to help focus.

Turn it off
Turn off the phone during lunch. Turn off the phone after work. Turn it off during workouts. We need to all be accessible, but respect your personal time.
Make a specific non-work time that you are not accessible.
Hide the smartphone, put it away and don’t use it. Let people leave you messages and get back to them.

Make a decision on the right projects.
I am the king of taking on projects that are not going anywhere that I am trying to save. I am a sucker that wants to make these projects really work out. We will have to let a few go.

Do less, not more
In the end we need to work on less things.

Finally, when you are working, dedicate larger blocks of time to projects to get things accomplished. My estimate is it takes at least 2 hours to get something really accomplished whether it is writing, web programming, product management, marketing, management, strategy, finance or another task. And yes I work in all these areas in a single day!

Have a great day and let me know if you are a true multi-tasker! Tell me you do it and are an expert! I won’t believe you.

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