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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
She used to work in a diner / never saw a woman look finer / I used to order just to watch her float across the floor
— Neil Young, Unknown Legend
June 7, 2010
Peter Bregman on How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking

Peter Bregman writes on the Harvard Business School blog about how and why you shouldn’t be trying to multitask.

It’s worth noting that there is a difference between multitasking and effective time and task management. Bregman’s article reads in such a way as to assume that the reader is aware of this distinction, an assumption that I don’t think its fair to make.

Bregman’s example of multitasking is a classic: trying to do something while having a phone conversation. The end result is that he makes a mistake in the task he’s trying to do and misses critical details of the phone conversation.

Nobody’s life consists of doing only one thing. The things that we need to get done—whether their personal, or for work—rarely come at us one at a time, and often overlap. This is where effective time and task management comes into play. It gives you the ability to get more than one thing done over a reasonable length of time.

Effective time and task management is a valuable skill, and sometimes means saying No or Please ask me later. Multitasking almost never works, as Bregman suggests:

You might think you’re different, that you’ve done it so much you’ve become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that.

But you’d be wrong. Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you

I’ve worked with people who claimed to be good multitaskers, and rarely were. I’ve claimed to be a good multitasker in the past, and it took me a long time to realize that not only was I wrong but that I needed to stop trying and instead manage my time effectively.

Getting things done properly and on time is better than getting things done poorly and now just because its top of mind.

Most people are good at getting things done they’re told are important and have very short deadlines; most people are not nearly as good at getting things done’ that aren’t identified as important and have longer term deadlines.

This often leads to executives and management, when they’re assigning tasks, often just identify everything as important. This becomes self defeating, overloading staff with short term tasks.

Avoiding this means everybody—both staff and management—need to understand how to effectively manage time and tasks, and avoid the phrase ‘You need to be better at multitasking.’

Posted by skooter at 3:05 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: Harvard Business Review, Multitasking, Peter Bregman

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