I sometimes think that multi-tasking is generally confused with execution efficiencies because an underlying reason that people try to multi-task is that they are trying to complete more tasks in the same period of time. One of the key benefits, or outcomes, of multi-tasking is an improvement in productivity. We’ve all heard over the years about the dramatic improvements in productivity that have been achieved over the years and these benefits have resulted in dramatic improvements in profits. From my personal experience and observations we have achieved an improvement in profits from completing more with the same number of people through two factors; automation of tasks and the convergence of professional and personal time through the proliferation of technology. In other words, we’ve achieved more through automation and longer work days.
Considering these facts, I suggest it is time to utilize lean principles and also theory of constraints principles to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of your multi-tasking activities. A good example of utilizing lean principles to improve your efficiencies is the example that I provided previously of taking meeting notes electronically rather than hand written on paper and then transposing to electronic version for distribution. I think its unreasonable and unrealistic to execute a formal continuous improvement program to improve your day-to-day multi-tasking. However, I think it is reasonable and in fact a necessity that you personally review your multi-tasking activities with an eye towards efficiencies and elimination of unnecessary tasks.
Another key ingredient to improving your multi-tasking efficiencies is utilizing principles of theory of constraints practices. The key principles that I suggest should be utilized in your multi-tasking are executing your tasks in an efficient sequence, never start a task until you have everything required to complete the task and never starting a task unless you can complete it. This, I believe is where you will achieve true efficiencies in your multi-tasking. A key to achieving these increased efficiencies through theory of constraints is actually something I’ve discussed previously and that is focus. The three practices I mention are key factors to improving efficiencies of execution and these efficiencies will allow you to multi-task more efficiently. One difficulty in practicing these principles is completing the tasks when you start them and never starting a task unless you can complete it. As simple method to overcome this challenge is to redefine the task and break it down into components that can be completed and don’t require completing the larger more complicated activity in one sitting. For example, you do not need to complete a proposal, or a presentation deck in one sitting and its unreasonable to try to complete it in one sitting. However you can break down the proposal into components that can be completed quickly. For instance, you can start with documenting an outline, or better yet use a template that provides the outline format and key deliverables for the proposal. The idea is to define the component to a task that can quickly be completed before interruptions divert your attention.
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?