Multi-tasking in Business: Friend or Foe?
I would bet my bottom dollar that the majority of the business world has, at one time or another encountered these magic words:
“I am an effective multi-tasker.”
Be it when fine-tuning a glossy new resume at the promise of a career move, or reviewing the “required skills” section in an online job posting, chances are that many of us have been trained, if not programmed, to believe that having “strong multi-tasking skills” is a business imperative.
On the surface it makes sense. Possessing the ability to juggle multiple tasks at once seems like a strong attribute to have in your arsenal, particularly as the existing business landscape and mobile culture demands we stay connected and accessible at all times.
No time of day is off limits in PR and the moment that computer powers on, the race against the clock begins. To top it off, each day requires minimal distractions, optimal productivity and delivering flawless results on an immediate turnaround.
As technology continues to fuel a paradigm shift in how we carry out our job functions, the requirements of “the new business norm” beg the question: when it comes to the time management conundrum, is multi-tasking the answer or are we chasing the wrong skill-set?
“Eastwickers” thrive in a fast-paced environment. It’s not uncommon for a typical day to possess all the familiar symptoms of this Tumblr post. Jokes aside, the communications field necessitates the ability to wear multiple hats while maintaining an exemplary level of client service and acting as an authority on time management. We serve as trusted advisors, “media watchdogs,” creative content developers, strategists…you name it. Our clients’ business objectives become our own as we partner to build brands that matter and collaboratively drive results onward and upward. The stakes are high.
So here we are.
Ellen Leanse, EVP at Eastwick, recently led a session for the staff about the brain at work. She covered brain physiology, psychology, and techniques that inspire our collective noggins to produce the most creative, organic and original work possible. During the session, “multi-tasking” bubbled up to the surface and the team debated whether to multi-task or handle one task at a time would achieve optimal quality and productivity. The consensus was unanimous: send multi-tasking out the door for good.
But, what is the harm in multi-tasking?
Inc. Magazine boldly says “Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You,” while the Wall Street Journal sheds light on “Why Multitasking Blocks Your Best Ideas.” Interestingly, two themes emerged: first, our brains aren’t designed to handle chronic multitasking, and when they are forced to, the outcome is decreased productivity and working in a state of mental overload. Second, multitasking can hinder organic creativity. In short, it is exhausting to your brain to multi-task.
Tips to Rev-Up Productivity & Creativity:
- Prioritize the work day, create an action plan, and execute systematically
- Devote attention to the task at hand and resist the urge to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously
- Cultivate an ability to shift tasks with agility and expect the unexpected
- Recharge your mental batteries and jumpstart creativity through healthy breaks
- Focus by minimizing distractions
The bottom line: concentrate on the task at hand. The antidote to the multi-tasking challenge (I’d like to offer) is a combination of prioritization and workplace agility. Reprogram your approach, adapt to the demands of the modern work culture, and ditch “expert multi-tasker” on that resume.