I must admit that I am a multitasker.  If I am watching television, I am also playing solitaire on my iPad.  If I am writing, I am also listening to music. Just working on one thing at a time is hard for me so it puzzled me as to why I could get all I need to accomplish done 8 AM to 5 PM.

Leaders started asking me to train them on how to do more with less.  That is the focus of today’s blog.  I want you to be able to be outside, out with your family or being able to pursue other passions.

I found some interesting information about your brain from John Medina, author of Brain Rules.   He found that every time you switch between tasks you lose at least 0.7 seconds.  Now that doesn’t sound like much but what is behind it is really significant.  See Medina found that along with the time loss your likelihood of errors goes up by 50 percent!

This is one of the reasons I find some leaders are productive and others work a ton of hours trying to be productive.  Productivity doesn’t come from multitasking-  It comes from knowing when NOT to multitask.

Here are some times to NOT multitask, why and what you can do instead so you increase your productivity and DECREASE the time you spend in the office.

Don’t multitask:

  1. In Meetings.  Your focus needs to be on hearing the facts so you can make informed decisions.  If you find meetings aren’t productive, restructure them so each person shares what the outcome of the meeting is and why you are relevant to and the discussion. If they can’t define that, don’t go to the meeting.  I can’t tell you how many leaders have found they are in the wrong meeting, or they are the wrong person at the meeting or that the person running the meeting has no clue as to what is the outcome they need from the meeting.
  2. When doing emails.  I recently got called by an executive that wanted to know how to “fix” a bad email she sent.  She had been multitasking between a phone call and the email when she typed up the email and hit send.  Well it had some critical information in it that was not suppose to be sent to all but she had automatically hit “reply to all.”  Now she was trying to do the reverse dance which is never pretty.
  3. Employee one-on-ones.  This is their time to be in front of you with full attention on them.  If you have a person who doesn’t handle their time well, educate them on how to have an effective meeting with you.  Show them how to prioritize what they come to you with and what things they should run with and not involve you in.  To start this process, at the end of each meeting for the next two months, share what worked and what can be improved so you are more helpful for them in accomplishing their goals.
  4. In a negotiation.  I know this one sounds obvious yet you wouldn’t believe how many times I see people looking at email, the internet or notes while they are negotiating.  This is one time you need your brain 100% on the other person, not you.  I recommend you always stand when negotiating on the phone so you eliminate the desire and temptation of focusing on anything but that call.

ONE HOT TIP– block off time each week that is your time for strategically working on key projects.  You will find you accomplish much more when you close your door and know you have complete focus.  I have had executives that prior to coaching with us, took their blackberries and laptops on all trips because they were constantly needed.  After going through coaching and learning “focused strategic attention” they are able to let go.  One executive just went on a three week vacation and never called in, checked voice mail or emails the entire time.  He said, “I have never been so energized coming back to work. It was amazing all my team accomplished as well!”

Multitasking for low brain activities isn’t bad.  When you are watching TV go ahead and play solitaire, but when you are working on high intense discussions, projects or plans block the appropriate time off for you to fully concentrate on the topic at hand.

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