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The Secrets of Multi-Tasking

How to Get More Done with Better Quality

How many of us  pride ourselves in our “ability” to multitask? We think it is an advantage—and maybe it is.  But maybe it has gone too far.

The honest fact is that you CANNOT mutlti-task. Sorry folks...

Let’s face it. Multitasking isn’t really doing two things at once. Multitasking is alternating among tasks. In other words, you hit the print button, then shift to making a phone call while the print job is delivered. And yes, some of us are darn good at it.

Switch-tasking, that is...

The reality is that no one can do two things at once, just like we can’t be two places at the same time. Yes, we might be able to do something physical and something mental, such as walking and talking. Yes, we can expertly move from task to task and back again.

So, how can you manage your work so that you can shift tasks rather than try to multi-task?

Here are some time-saving tips.

Acknowledge that multi-tasking is impossible. Because you can’t think two things at once, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can. Bite the bullet and throw out the notion that multi-tasking is possible. And replace it with the understanding that task shifting is a much more effective way to approach getting things done.

Give your full attention to each task. If you’re on the phone, don’t scroll though your e-mail. If you’re sorting your e-mail, focus on it till you’re done. If you’re talking with someone, don’t sneak a peek at your PDA.

Group like tasks, and work them in “buckets.” Grouping like tasks has always been a time management strategy.   A great example is email.  Instead of reading each e-mail message as it comes in, turn off your automatic send/receive, and view your inbox in spaced intervals throughout the day.

Set a regular time, once daily, to plan your work for the day.  By planning your day, you can plan to switch tasks in a productive way, to make sure all of your priotities are being addressed. Once you've decided what to work on, focus on it!

But—the real key is for you to resist the urge to do two things at once, because at least one of them will suffer from lack of proper attention.  Instead, focus fully on the task at hand. And when it is done, move to the next.  And the next. And the next.  And the next.Why?  Because givng 100% to each works better than giving 50% to two things at once.

Let's stop fooling ourselves into thinking that multitasking is productive. The threat is that by trying to handle one thing while doing other tasks, we could be either splitting our attention between tasks or robbing the needed focus from one to deal with the other. Trying to do two things at once results in one or either of the tasks not being given the proper focus. By allowing a newly arrived task to draw us from the current task,  we lose concentration and continuity, threatening the ultimate quality of our work and costing us valuable qualtiy or time.

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Join Marsha's "Coaching at the Corner" every other Thursday for skill building chats, at Mitchell's Book Corner!