Multitasking is overrated

“Staying Productive in the Information Age” by Sharon Lowenheim (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). We are all trying to do more with less. More and more work with less time and less budget to do it. Quality, value and efficiency continue to be the mantras of the moment. Doing it all might not be possible, so doing the right things becomes the next best choice.

Truth be told, there’s not much new in Ms. Lowenheim’s suggestions but a friendly reminder on the topic of productivity isn’t going to hurt either. The best bit might actually come in the last paragraph:

Don’t multitask. Every time you switch tasks, your brain has to close out one task and boot up the other, resulting in lost time. Trying to do two things at once ultimately takes you longer and will produce substandard results. Instead, use your prioritized task list to guide your activities, and work on one thing at a time.

There is a reason why a production line is a production line. The human mind does better when it’s focused on less, not more. That is, quality and completion, not quantity and loose ends. Unfortunately, multitasking is probably one of the most overrated must-haves in business.

Finally, there are two other suggestions we like to add. One, be sure to take breaks. Aside from needing focus, the brain also needs to catch its breath from time to time. Less can in fact be more. Two, find work that you enjoy. Some say you don’t have to love your job. That’s bull! In terms of waking hours a person probably spends more time at work than he/she does with their kids. Is it alright not to love them too? Probably not.

Yes, work hard — and smart. But don’t sell yourself short. Love what you do and who you do it with.

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