The Downside of Multitasking

In my role as a Sr. Consultant at Stratigent, I am often asked to lead sessions designed to get consensus on business objectives and key performance indicators. These sessions are typically critical pieces of an overall KPI development project and I need stakeholders to be fully engaged in order to succeed. Many times when I am leading these sessions it is obvious I do not have everyone’s full attention which leads to additional meetings or even the risk of not meeting the objectives.

We live and work in times when technologies such as the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging etc. provide for various ways to multitask throughout the workday. While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. According to a recent Stanford University study on the perils of electronic multitasking, heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information and experience more stress.
 
In my role as a Sr. Consultant at Stratigent, I am often asked to lead sessions designed to get consensus on business objectives and key performance indicators. These sessions are typically critical pieces of an overall KPI development project and I need stakeholders to be fully engaged in order to succeed. Many times when I am leading these sessions it is obvious I do not have everyone’s full attention which leads to additional meetings or even the risk of not meeting the objectives.
 
We live and work in times when technologies such as the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging etc. provide for various ways to multitask throughout the workday. While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. According to a recent Stanford University study on the perils of electronic multitasking, heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information and experience more stress.
 
I decided I needed a strategy to combat this distraction in order to lead more effective KPI development sessions. I start each session with some ground rules and at times I even reference this emerging research. For the most part participants have been responsive to my no email and instant messaging requests. For my part I need to ensure that I am very prepared and focused so as a group we are all working in a highly productive mode.
 
Here are a few other strategies for dealing with the downside of heavy multitasking:
 
  • Prioritize: I start my day by reviewing my calendar and figuring out what I need to accomplish each day. I then estimate the time each task will take to accomplish (and then pad, since everything takes longer than I expect).
  • Create time blocks: After I have prioritized the day I use time blocks to plan out the day. I make sure there is open time in between for urgent stuff that comes up.
  • Prepare: Before a meeting or call with a client I take the time to review notes from previous meetings.
  • Focus: When I am working on a task I turn off all other distractions.
  • Adjust: Sometimes the schedule doesn’t work out quite as I planned and I need to adjust priorities.
 
 
 

 

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