In This Episode…

Multitasking is such a tempting thing to do when there is a bit of dead time in a task we are doing.   

We think we are being efficient and effective by filling any dead time with other stuff that needs to get done.  

But it is a fallacy for a variety of reasons.   

In today’s episode I share another one of my experiences where I kept focused on one task and resisted the temptation to multi-task, even though there was time to do other stuff.

Episode Transcript

Hi, and welcome to today’s episode of the Profit Productivity Podcast . It’s your host, Michael Tipper. Who else would it be?

Now, today I want to talk a little bit about the, the ability to resist multitasking. Even when you think that you can get away with doing more than one thing at the same time.

So over the last couple of days, I’ve been involved in certain tasks that haven’t taken all of my attention.

The first task was doing a text based chat interview to potential virtual assistants.

The challenge with conducting an interview over chat is you type your question, and then you’ve got to wait while they read the question, formulate their answers, then type it back to you.

I then see their answers and write my response and the next question.

So out of a 30 minute chat, it’s likely for at least half of that, I’m not doing anything.

It’s possible you might be tempted to do something else during that downtime.

Perhaps check an email. Perhaps check my Facebook. Perhaps check my WhatsApp messages. Maybe check my LinkedIn.

When There Is Down Time In A Task It’s Very Tempting To Try And Do Something Else

I might just be tempted to do a little bit of work whilst I’m waiting for the answer.

Now that might seem an obvious choice to make, because when there’s downtime whilst you’re waiting for the answers, you could get on and do something else.

But there is the context switching time, which I’ve mentioned before on this podcast .

This is when you do one task but then switch to another and there’s a certain amount of time for you to mentally to tune out from the first task and then tune into the second task.

Once you’ve done that, you can then crack on with the new task. However, there’s a loss of efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness in that time when you’re switching between the tasks.

I’ve found that by trying to do two things at the same time, you water down your effectiveness of being able to do either.

I’ve noticed this when I’ve been on the receiving end of it. When I’ve had to use chat based support systems for technical queries, I’ve often found that I have typed my question or my answer or my response, there’s quite a significant delay coming from the chat support assistant.

You Can See The Problem Of This When You Use Chat Based Support Services

I have a theory that they’re probably trying to answer two, three or four chats at the same time. They probably try and run them simultaneously thinking that the efficiency they have whilst they’re waiting for the answer from one, they can deal with another.

Now that sounds like it would work, but in practice it doesn’t.

What happens is that you blur the edges. You don’t fully focus on one at the expense of dealing with the other.

And so yesterday, when I found myself doing this and experienced the temptation for me to do other stuff I stopped myself.

I said to myself:

“I can’t do that. Let me focus entirely on this, because it’s important. This person is presenting the best possible selves in order to try and convince me they are the right person and that I should choose for them to work for me. So I owe it to them to be able to apply myself in the same way and give them respect”.

They wouldn’t know whether I’m was doing it, but I think from my own perspective, I needed the time to think about the implications of their previous answers whilst waiting for the next one to come in.

I would think about my question, and then I’d think about their previous answer deeply as I was pacing around my office, whilst I was waiting for their next answer.

I wasn’t doing anything but focus entirely on the interview.

  • What other questions could I ask?
  • What did they mean by that?
  • Is this the person I really want?
  • How do I feel about that?
  • What’s the next question I could ask?

And so by allowing myself the space to think deeper about it, the interviews I conducted were actually a much higher quality than had I tried to multitask.

I got one job done really well, instead of two jobs done really, really badly.

Today I had another situation where I was watching a webinar Zoom which meant they couldn’t see me.

When they were doing the Q&A, I could have done something else but I chose not to. I chose to focus on the webinar because it is important to me because I’ve just taken this information in.

I thought to myself “Let me process it. Let me think about it. Let me fully engage myself in what’s going on here.”

Here’s The Key To High Performance – Focus On One Thing At A Time

One task at a time. That’s the key.

Now it requires quite a bit of discipline to be able to do that. It takes presence of mind, to know when you’ve shifted your focus because it is so easy just to pick up your phone and check your social media, your WhatsApp, your Facebook, your LinkedIn, your email thinking. “I’ll just have a quick look at that.”

Often that’s an automatic behaviour. And you get sucked into it and it can be distracting.

If you could start answering something on your distracted task, you may have missed something on your primary task.

And the reason why that happens is because our brains are hardwired for distraction, because it is a survival mechanism.

Procrastination is also something we do easily as well. So our hard wiring sets us up for wanting to be distracted.

But that’s not where effectiveness and efficiency and high performance comes from. It comes from focusing on what’s on the matter at hand, applying all of yourself to get the best from that particular activity.

I thought I’d share that because I’m starting to see now just how important focus is in terms of getting stuff done. And I’m also seeing just how important it is to realise that you’re up against hard-wiring that wants you to do the opposite.

Having that awareness and having the strength and the courage and the discipline to be able to see it through are key skills to develop.

I’m finding now the quality of my output is much better, but also my mind is starting to become calmer and clearer and more focused.

The old distracted me of shifting from one thing to another very, very rapidly is starting to ease into the background and allowing a much more focused, disciplined, calmer person to evolve.

And that person is getting stuff done far more effectively.

So that’s today’s episode.

Until tomorrow.

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