The first time I heard that multitasking is “so last century” I was shocked.
“Ability to multitask” was a huge thing not that long ago, and even had a prominent place on many CVs.
Alas, it turns out that the great multitasking, the skill of the chosen and the favourites, is actually a counterproductive practice that costs companies and businesses as much as 20% to 40% in term of potential efficiency. Trying to do more than one thing at a time often means that none of them is done with as much efficiency, precision and completeness as you are capable of.
Simply put, you are more productive and efficient when you complete one task after another than when you alternate between two or more.
As soon as I grasped this, my schedule changed in so many ways. For instance, time was when in a single day I was drafting pitches, then editing chapters, then stopping to write an article, then meeting with a client, then coming back to proofread a thesis. The goal was to be on top of things, as a boss, but “multitasking like a pro” only left me feeling unproductive at the end of the day, depressed by a sense of scattered energies.
Now, I have writing days when all I do is write. One hour in, I’m all warmed up and before I know it I’m so in the flow, so on the ball, it’s almost supernatural.
Pausing one task to take up another task is not taking a break.
If I’m going to be meeting clients or out conducting interviews, I arrange my work so that the bulk of it is people-facing and I’m in my relational, marketing/consulting mode for a good part of the day.
On my editing and proofreading days, I’m fully immersed in the task at hand and avoid breaking my flow by going places, writing articles, or talking to people. When I’ve spent sufficient time on this, I can then afford to switch modes, instead of switching back and forth. The difference between work I produce in this way, and work I produce in multitasking mode, is clear even to me.
If you’re taking a break, take a break. Pausing one task to take up another task is not taking a break.
There are many ways to incorporate smart tasking into your life.
If you, like many other professionals, use the hour blocking method, you can tweak it. Instead of setting particular fragments of time to start and stop different tasks, block longer periods, hours even, for the same task. This way, you allow yourself enough time to warm up and get into flow, which will give you greater results than doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, without really getting in the groove enough to come up with your best.
Try grouping tasks that can be completed in one place, say, on the internet, together. This way, you can use the environment to your advantage. When I need to write anything – emails, book chapters, articles, etc. – I schedule them together and make the best of my writing flow.
If you’re going to be in a location, try scheduling tasks that can be done there, or in that direction, together. By doing this, you prevent walking or driving back and forth and you can channel your energies most productively.
Successful people find that when they ditch multitasking and give themselves fully to one task at hand at a time, they accomplish more in a relatively short period than if they were flitting from task to task within that time frame.
There’s the possibility that you may be the exception, of course, but isn’t it worth checking out?