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Multi-Tasking, When is it Effective?

I learned to multi-task as a young mother 20 odd years ago in my attempt to get more done in my allotted 24 hours a day. After all, I had young children to rear, a career to advance and an education to complete simultaneously. I became the master of the to-do list and got really organized. I was exhausted, too.

I agree that there is way more to do than there are hours in the week to do them and that sometimes multi-tasking can be a strategy that works.

An example of what doesn't work for me is when I'm doing two types of communications. I know that I cannot type a message of more than 2 syllables and listen at the same time.

When I try to multi-task when my focus is required, it creates more work since I have to do at least one thing over again, like hearing the conversation.

So when can we multi-task and have positive results?
Walk and talk - I like this for informal meetings to learn information, network or come to agreements and to get some exercise in. Tip - post walk make a few notes about agreements for accountability.

When to avoid multi-tasking:
Using your blackberry or laptop at a meeting where you're expected to participate.

Multi-tasking Toss Up
You have a weekly telecon that goes on for an hour or more and you're at your desk - you can put your phone on mute so you can't be heard typing away. The question is - are you a true participant, expected to take information back to your team and/or contribute to the conversation? If so, then you must do your best to stay present to the dialogue. If no, and you are compelled to be on the call for some other reason, then multi-task. The decision ultimately comes down to knowing how you can split your focus to get more done and when it compromises your execution.