Is Multi-tasking Efficient?

I’ll admit it, I am a multi-tasker.   Which begs the question, how efficient am I?  The top answer according to Google reports that multi-tasking does not make me efficient.  It’s quite the opposite:  

Multitasking seems like a great way to get a lot done at once. But research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are. In fact, some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40%.

Data aside, I beg to differ.  Let’s start with the basics and see if we can construct why and when multi-tasking works.

Is there a Difference Between Efficiency and Multi-tasking?  

Efficiency is finding a quicker, easier way to get a task done. This post helps you see what works for you and what does not. Multi-tasking is performing several tasks at the same time, that may require diverse skills and shared focus.   

1- Some Tasks Have Too Much Down Time

Like laundry.  Ok, so laundry isn’t a business process or is it?   Do we have process or routines which need to be started and then can be left alone to produce results while we focus on other pressing needs?  Waiting for email responses comes to mind. Send an email and wait.  Send an important email and wait even longer.  Scheduling requests depending on the industry and process have a lead time.   I always had to wait for data queries.   First input the data and then wait.  So yes, we have several natural laundry cycles while waiting.  The question is are we efficient during the waiting time.  Are we able to get other work accomplished?  Is it substantial work or do we squander it tinkering on the edge of projects and assignments?

2- Some Parts of Meetings are Just Too Boring

Why is it, when I perform other tasks, while semi-listening, I believe I listen more?  The data says its not true, but how productive do I feel after I have attended a meeting and while listening and appropriately participating I have cleaned out my inbox and answered several pieces of neglected mail.  I’ve also looked over my calendar, cleaned up any uncertainties and got material ready for each meeting.  Why not in this virtual world, I am already in front of the screen. Be honest and make sure you are fulfilling your purpose at the meeting.  If you show up to do other things and just get credit, that will be noticed.  And of course if you are leading the meeting, this needs to be done judiciously.  

Pro Tip:  This is much simpler in virtual meetings since we are looking straight ahead at the screen.  Just make sure your leave your camera on and it doesn’t have a wider angle, share screen is disabled and you stay muted.   

3- Work Begets Work

It’s one of the most common truths about productivity.  The more you do the more there is to do.  This begs multitasking and efficiencies.  Learn what you can get done in-tandem with something else.   Pay attention to what you can “skimp” on your time and what you can’t.  Figure out how much time tasks and projects take to download them to  your staff. Especially when adding on new responsibilities, multi-tasking is often the only way to go.

What’s Next

Go ahead, multi-task.  Just set-it up so you can be efficient in managing your time and downloading.  Institute your own quality control checks.  If you aren’t making mistakes and don’t have to go back and redo your work, you might be in an efficient multi-tasking zone.  Well done you have beat the odds!

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