Multi-tasking: A necessary evil or just plain evil?

We all do it, and sometimes even job descriptions or interviewers say we should be awesome at this in order to succeed in the job. During my next interview I will remind those interviewers that multitasking reduces task efficiency by 60%, reduces IQ by 10 points, and damages working relationships (How and Why Not to Multitask, Harvard Business Review).

But, if you have to do it, here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO batch similar tasks together and complete them using a streamlined process or template. Then before finalizing make small customizations for each. Ie. You have to crank out 10 prospect emails to various clients. Create a template and then customize. Limit your customization to 5-7 minutes per client.

  • DO schedule time in your day to scan emails in your Inbox. Respond to any that will take less than 3 minutes of your time. This usually entails “Yes/No” responses or forwarding onto someone else. For anything else, defer it and block out the task in your calendar.

  • DON’T multitask when you are speaking with someone. This means one-on-one conversations, phone calls, and meetings. If you can’t focus on what they are saying kindly request that you reschedule or reconvene at a time when you can focus. Otherwise you are damaging your credibility and relationship.

  • DON’T multitask with items that you have identified as urgent or important (I will be posting a follow-up blog on tips for prioritization and concentration next week).

  • DON’T multitask with items that require creative thought, brainstorming, research, strategic or deep thinking.