There may be a time and a place for multi-tasking and I think its fair to say that everyone has a different level of multi-tasking capability.  I have come to realize however that there is quite a difference between multi-tasking and being effective at multi-tasking.  I’ve come to realize that for me personally there are many challenges to overcome to performing effective multi-tasking. I’ve also come to realize that for me personally there are very few occasions where I consider true multi-tasking to be possible.  In fact I have come to realize that multi-tasking in many instances causes a lower quality and longer time to deliver results. 

There is really one key reason that challenges the performance and quality of multi-tasking and that is  a focus, or more precisely a scattered focus.  The challenge is to recognize the tasks that require your focus and to coordinate the time and the place to perform these tasks.  The second challenge to focus and execution it availability of all of the tools and information to perform a task.  I suggest that you should first perform a breakdown or evaluation of the task before starting to determine if you have all of the requirements available at hand to complete the task.  If you don’t have everything required to complete the task, then the first area of activity or focus should be to collect everything required to complete the task. 

Now for me the challenges are all related to understanding the level of focus required and then evaluating how and if I can change the way I execute tasks in order to increase the level of focus I can devote to the task.  Let me give a very simple example of how I’ve tried to evaluate and change the way I perform tasks to increase focus and even the quality of both tasks.  I am involved in many meetings, conference calls and webex meetings which I can take at my desk.  In the past I would use these meetings to read and respond to emails and in addition I would take hand-written notes during the meeting.  After the meeting, if necessary I would transcribe those hand-written notes to an email or electronic document for distribution.  This practice left me not fully focused on the meeting topics and not fully participating.  Obviously this reduced the quality of the meeting because one of the attendees was not fully focused and participating.  Realizing my own personal challenges I decided to change my practice with the goal of increasing my effectiveness and focus.  I changed my method to focus on the meeting at hand and rather than hand-written notes I take notes electronically during the meeting.  This provides two benefits, I focus on the meeting topic, I am able to distribute my notes immediately after completing the meeting, I have electronic notes that are easily searchable in the future and I’ve eliminated the time to transcribe my hand-written notes.

This is a very simple example and I hope it sparks ideas for you to re-evaluate your methods for multi-tasking that will increase the quality and focus of your participation and execution. 

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?