The greatest hazard in the multi-tasking world today is the risk of not getting to the the actual tasks you have set for yourself.
I have always had multiple tools on my desktop. At one time my desktop was covered with a legal pad, a canister of pens, reference books, a phone book, trade journals, blank file cards, boxes of completed file cards, a hand-written spreadsheet, Roll-a-Dex, a company form for tracking activity, an in-box/out-box, and a phone.
Today my desktop has a keyboard/mouse, computer screen where I have replaced the physical tools with a word processor, a database, a browser, a mail client, and I still have a phone. The options of tasks has not been increased. The browser though does provide the temptation for play.
The emphasis of the tasks has shifted for me. I used to make a lot more phone calls. Today, many people really shy away from the phone. I kind of chuckle when I get an email from a person who is writing me a note to give them a call. Huh? Is something important or not important when people send you an email to call to call them instead of just calling you?
Obviously dangerous multi-tasking is something like driving a car, or better yet, using a chain saw while you are trying to do something else. Impossible multi-tasking is doing two things in two places at the same time. For example, juggling six balls is one thing. Juggling three balls in two places is quite another. Multi-tasking can be much like juggling three balls in two places. A person will certainly drop a lot of balls when trying to do two or three or four complex jobs on a computer at the same time. In the workplace you, just as you may wreck your car by trying to comb your hair, change the settings on your air conditioning, and driving at the same time, you may wreck your business and medical findings suggest that you may wreck your health.
Even before the transition to a computer, I found that prioritizing and staying on task was the important for me. It was easy to step down the hall for a chat, pull a trade journal out of the in-box, open a reference book just out of curiosity to look up financial information on a company, call someone for social chat, and other things that took me off task.
To stay focused, I have always found it helpful to make a list of the things I need to get done each day and do those things. The days for me are less effective when I sit down with an idea of what I need to do and start working as things come to mind. I find myself more easily succumbing to distractions when I do not check items off the list as I go through my day.
So multi-tasking is not a matter of how many balls I am juggling, but staying on task. If the task is juggling, I focus on juggling. When I have finished my juggling task, I can start my next task. When I find that I am flying from one task to another, what I really need is a break. I clear my mind and return to my list of things to do. Multi-tasking? Give me a break!
The World’s Most Noble Headhunter