Why I Stopped Multitasking

June 5, 2017 - 4 minutes read

A Self-Proclaimed Multitasking Master

For years I’d brag about it. I would wake up in the morning or step foot into the office with no plan. I’d drink my coffee and say to myself, “bring it on!” After one big, deep breath, I’d turn my computer on and tackle my day.

I’d address anything and everything that came my way and I’d boast about how I had the uncanny ability to spin multiple plates at one time without a single one of them falling. I was on a constant stream of adrenaline as I answered questions, completed tasks, and made split-second decisions. At happy hour with colleagues, we’d all talk about our days, specifically about how productive we were because we were able to “get all these things done.”

Does this sound either like yourself or someone you know?

The Problem: It’s Simple Math

mean formula

This formula might look familiar to you where ‘N’ is the number of terms and ‘S’ is the sum of the numbers in the set of interest.

So, if you take all the tasks you try to tackle at once like email + projects + challenges + team members + meetings and divide all of that by 5 (because that’s the number of items you’re trying to accomplish at one time), you get this:

AVERAGE

That’s right. When you multitask and try to take on the world at one time, the best you’re giving is your arithmetic mean, or your average.

How To Avoid Being Average

“Today I was so busy, but I don’t feel like I got anything done.”

The easiest thing you can do not only for yourself but for the people you are surrounded by every day is to stop multitasking. Stop giving yourself and/or your team something that isn’t your best.

Would you accept average from your team or the people around you? If not, then it’s unacceptable to give them your average.

Planning and Priorities

Take time every day to put a plan together. Think about all of the tasks you need to accomplish for the day and check to make sure that they actually mean something. Everything you do in a day should have some sort of ROI (or Return On Investment), whatever that looks like to you. Stop filling your day full of meaningless tasks and only address those that are beneficial to whatever you’re set to accomplish for the day.

Once you’ve outlined what those tasks are, prioritize them. Knock out the most crucial tasks first thing. Do this while you’re feeling fresh and motivated. Complete these high priority tasks so you don’t have to worry about them all day long. Once they’re done, move on to the next. Avoid doing multiple things at one time.

Related: How to use priority lists as a leadership tool

Just Say No

As a leader, you should feel comfortable saying no. When tasks are flying your way, you should be able to determine the priority level of those tasks and gauge whether they have any sort of ROI attached to them. Turn down tasks that are meaningless to you. If you’re extremely busy, you should not be taking on additional tasks because you feel bad or because you don’t want to be mean. It’s ok to unequivocally say no without giving an excuse. Just do it. Say no.

Related: How to say no

What do you do personally to avoid average? Has your executive or management team received leadership training to learn how to effectively prioritize? Let us know in the comments below.