Multitasking Advice: Don’t

imagesEverybody seems to boast these days about the ability to multitask. I’ve seen it on countless resumes and have interviewed candidates who considered it a selling point.

But the fact is that multitasking causes mistakes. It takes your focus away from one thing and spreads that 100% over several tasks.

It’s simply not possible to give 100% focus to more than one thing at a time. The truth is that when you multitask, something, or someone, is suffering.

Let me share a quick, personal story. Twice a week, I wake up at 5am and head to boot camp – a work out program I’ve been a part of for five years now.  From 6:00 – 7:00 am I am 100% engaged in…me. There is no music (we’re outdoors in various areas of a park, rain or shine). There are no smart phones. And there are no breaks.

It works because it is 100% distraction free.

And this is how I know for sure that I am completely focused and giving my 100% effort.  The first few weeks taking the class were difficult – and not just because of all the push ups! I actually struggled with the idea that for an entire hour, I was completely out of reach. I wasn’t sure how to “be” without my iPhone for 60 whole minutes. But once I got used to the idea of 100% focus, it began to carry over into other parts of my life – especially my career. I began seeing every opportunity as a chance to give 100%. A chance to prove myself. Push myself. Excel.

And I realized that rather than trying to become an expert multitasker who can get three things done fairly well at the same time, I could get one thing done at a time, perfectly, to the best of my ability, on time or sooner.

I’m  not arguing that you can’t be an expert in more than one thing – quite to the contrary! I like to think I’m a great copywriter, marketer, and social media manager… But if I’m working on one project while I’m on the phone with another client discussing copy, one of those things is going to suffer.

Have you ever been on the phone with someone and felt that you weren’t really being heard? You’re not alone. People are composing emails, tweeting and writing proposals while they’re on conference calls. I see it all the time. Maybe you’ve been guilty of it on occasion. Whatever is pulling your focus away from the task at hand is potentially causing the project to suffer.

Multitasking is not something you should work harder at doing. Singular focus, 100% effort – these are things to strive towards. With all the tools and devices at our fingertips, there is no end to the potential distractions, or the ways in which we can multitask. My advice to you is this: Learn how NOT to multitask. 

Give your 100% focus to whatever project you’re working on. And if you do get interrupted, simply stop what you’re doing and take the call, answer the email, etc. But trying to carry on a phone conversation with one client while you’re typing an email reply to another is not something you want to do.

A few tips on how to focus in – and stay on task:

  1. Put your phone on silent
  2. Close your laptop during conference calls and presentations
  3. Keep your phone in your purse/pocket during a face-to-face meeting
  4. Close your office door while you’re working on a proposal
  5. Use a headset for important phone calls – it lets colleagues know you’re busy and can’t listen right now.
  6. Don’t make eye contact. If you’re on a call, keep your eyes on something fixed, rather than make eye contact with everyone who walks by your desk/office
  7. Make eye contact – if you’re meeting someone face-to-face, look at them! It seems simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been involved in where people are staring at a screen rather than each other.

And next time you find yourself in an interview, and you’re asked the standard question “What would you say is your greatest weakness?” Tell them: Multitasking. Because you are someone who gives 100% percent effort to every project you take on – big or small.

Do you agree with my assessment of multitasking? Or do you think it’s an asset? Please do share in the comments below!





About Beth M. Wood

Beth M. Wood is a marketing and writing professional. She's been working in the marketing industry since the early 90s, and feeding her shopping habit with copywriting gigs since 2004. On August 1, 2013, she made the jump to full-time freelance writer, marketer, and social media manager. Beth is highly adept at creating and managing integrated marketing programs that get brands noticed. She's also well known for creating and maintaing a strong brand voice across all channels. She is a word geek, a grammar snob and a boot camp junkie. Which means she believes in giving 100% to every project she takes on - large or small. She earned her BA in writing from Webster University and serves as Senior Content Strategist at Scorch.
This entry was posted in project management, small business and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.