I’m sure that most readers run into challenges managing all of the activities they must complete between, personal and professional lives. I’ve seen many articles and even discussed myself in the past the convergence and the cross-over between personal and professional lives. This convergence and cross over started with email and through each iteration of improvement in technology the convergence has increased and lines have blurred even more. With these increases comes an increase in the time and focus required to manage all of these activities. This is where things get a little complicated and also where people start multi-tasking.
We have reached the point now where the work day length has elongated into the evening and weekends due to the proliferation of technology and the expanding smartphone capabilities. I know that I am regularly check email throughout the evening and weekend because it is surprising sometimes the amount of emails that are sent during these ‘off hours’. I’m not saying that all careers require a 24 x 7 focus on the job, there is however the bleed over that naturally occurs due to availability.
There is another result of this availability and bleed over between personal and professional lives and that is an increase in multi-tasking. Some multi-tasking is easy, such as watching TV in the evening while you are checking email. Some multi-tasking is dangerous, such as checking your email or texting while driving. Most multi-tasking falls somewhere in between the above two examples with various levels of success. Success however is in the eye of the beholder, I’m sure you’ve all seen the group in the restaurant that are all performing some types of tasks on their smart phones, you really can’t miss them because it is the group that are all looking down at the table and tapping on the smartphone, in a kind of prayer stance.
I think the multi-tasking has increased productivity to a certain extent, after all you can read and respond to emails while watching TV. It is important though to understand that the increase in productivity in many ways are the result of the elongated day that is the result of improvements in technology. This works out well because so many people that are elongating their day in this way truly enjoy their career. There are other factors that must be taken into account that are results of multi-tasking; a reduction in concentration on any one task, an elongation of the duration to complete one task and finally due to the reduction in concentration you must be careful that the quality of your work does not suffer.
The reduction in concentration on any one task is the most serious negative side effect of multi-tasking and that is something that you must pay attention that it doesn’t get out of control. I have found that what works best for me is multi-tasking in ‘bursts’, when I’m in a meeting I will concentrate on the meeting and only monitor email for instance and will only respond when there is an important email. In addition I will use my laptop to take notes in the meeting, while not necessarily multi-tasking, this does allow me to distribute my notes to the interested parties quickly and it also provides a basis to search for information easily in the future. Multi-tasking can be a productivity enhancer and you must be aware of your limitations in order to provide the improvements and limit the negative factors.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking? How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task? How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?