Join Dave Crenshaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Addressing the myth of multitasking, part of Time Management Fundamentals.
- Ironically, the biggest obstacle to effective time management is something that many people believe is what makes them more productive. Let's address the myth of multitasking before we dive deeper into time management. In order for you to experience this myth firsthand, let's do an exercise together, adapted from my book "The Myth of Multitasking." We're going to find out how well you use your time when you multitask. You can download and print out a handout from the course page.
You can also use any piece of white paper to do this exercise. Notice that I have the phrase at the top of this exercise,"Switchtasking is a Thief." When people think they're multitasking, very often instead, what they're doing is switchtasking. Switchtasking occurs when you attempt to perform multiple attention requiring tasks at the same time. Switchtasking is a thief. It's a thief of time. It's a thief of money and it's a thief of your sanity.
And you're about to experience, firsthand, what I mean. Here's how the exercise works. Wait to hear all of the instructions before you begin. First, recopy the phrase, "Switchtasking is a thief," in the first row. And then, underneath that in the second row, write the numbers one to 21, one number for every letter in that phrase. Use a timer while you do this and write down your time underneath the second row.
Great! Now let's do this again. This time, I want you to switchtask. Switch back and forth between each letter and number. Again, wait until I give you all the instructions. For every letter you write, you're going to write a number. You'll begin by writing the letter "S," and beneath that, you'll write a one. And then you'll write a "W" and beneath that, you'll write a two. "I" and three, and so on. Again, use a timer and keep track of how long this takes you.
What you just experienced is the myth of multitasking. Rather than getting more done faster, you got worse results slower. This is because your brain is physically incapable of handling multiple active tasks at the same time. In your everyday activities, switching back and forth rapidly between tasks gives the same result as what you just experienced when you switched back and forth between the numbers and the letters.
No, I'm not talking about doing something active while something mindless or mundane happens in the background, such as exercising while watching TV. To clarify, I call that sort of activity, "background tasking." But when most people say they're multitasking, or, "I'm a good multitasker," they're referring to attempting to perform multiple active tasks at the same time. This is switchtasking and it's disastrous to effective time management.
Learn how to get more done in the shortest time possible and avoid the obstacles and distractions that can get in the way of good time management. Dave gives practical strategies for increasing productivity in three main areas: developing habits to be more organized and reducing clutter in your workspace; staying mentally on task and eliminate the to-dos you have floating in your head; and developing a time budget to get the most done during your workday and focus on your most valuable activities.
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- Finding your productivity style and motivation
- Understanding the principles of time management
- Avoiding the pitfalls of multitasking
- Narrowing your gathering points
- Consolidating email and voicemail accounts
- Practicing mind-clearing techniques
- Choosing and using calendar software
- Saying no with tact
- Mastering the what, when, where processing system
- Processing email vs. checking email
- Maintaining productivity gains