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Multitasking your business is inefficient!

April 18, 2014

Multitasking is inefficient!  It’s a counter intuitive truth for many of us in our personal time management and the way our business works. Here are few thoughts.

Multitasking yourself:  taking on multiple tasks at the same time means we are continuously shifting our attention from one thing to another.  Have you ever been  writing a report whilst checking your inbox and responding to text messages?  It’s called “continuous partial attention” and causes superficial understanding, boredom and impatience.  It also wastes time and so energy as each time we switch attention between tasks we need to sort out our brains and get back up to speed.

So what to do for you? well, try to do one thing at a time, schedules small, 20 minute, blocks of time to focus on single tasks, turn off the email and phone, find quiet areas if possible to work on important work and finally collect your “don’t forget” thoughts on a notebook or try Evernote  to consider another time.

Multitasking your business: your business can suffer the same distraction, or organisational attention deficit disorder.  Yes, I hear you say it needs to do many  things to get the product out the door, develop new markets. etc.  so it has to multi-task.   That is true for day to day operations but not for strategic growth or improvement.  Consider this, about half of the business people surveyed in a recent Booz and Co. survey said their company didn’t have any strategic priorities or focus – they just react to what happens.  In the same survey about 64% said their biggest frustration was having too many conflicting priorities!

Have you ever felt like everybody in the business is rushing around doing their stuff but it doesn’t feel joined up?  If you are the owner then you may feel you’re constantly coordinating people, pointing them in the right direction or just doing some of the stuff yourself.  All this leads to inefficiency.


So what to do for the business?  The key words are Focus and Clarity.  In fact a leading improvement consultant, Karen Martin, had the best tip – if there was just one thing you could focus on, it would be Focus! So would you like your workforce focussed on what is important, applying itself with clarity in delivering it?  here’s a few tips:

  • use your management team to identify what initiatives / changes the business could do;
  • select what it will do – try sorting all those initiatives or changes into four columns: DO, DELAY, ELIMINATE, MAYBE;
  • Set aside those in the ELIMINATE and DELAY column;
  • Review the MAYBE column and put them into the other three.

That should give you a more manageable list to work with.  A second round of prioritising could take each initiative and score it for:

  • ease of doing;
  • benefit to be gained from doing it;
  • urgency of doing it.

Then draw up the list in scored order and decide how far down the list you can sensibly go.  The debate and review at both stages will strengthen the prioritisation and drive greater focus and clarity of what the business has to do.  And that might be the end of inefficient multitasking!