Is multi-tasking always a must?

Posted: October 14th, 2020

Written by Beth Clause, Esquire | August 30, 2018 | Volk Law Offices, P.A.

Is multi-tasking always a must? 

Most business minded people think so. 

As published in Forbes magazine in February of 2016, approximately 2% of multi-tasker are good at it.  Consequently 98% of multi-takers are not using their time effectively. Studies show that multi-tasking decreases your productivity by at least 40%.

We all do it, we all have to do it, however what is multi-tasking doing to our brains?  All that back and forth between tasks isn’t all that efficient because, each time we do it, it takes our brain some time to refocus on the next task. So while it might seem efficient use of your time, it really is not.

US defines multitasking as the ability of an individual or machine to perform more than one task at a time.  The term “multi-tasking” became popular in the late 1990s with boom of the 24-7 work and service culture. 

Technological developments such as smartphones and portable computers has increased the trend of multi-tasking.  Most of us think that multi-tasking is really moving from one task to another such as typing an email and listening to a webinar, then sending a text and so on. 

I find it especially frustrating when someone asks to see or speak with you and they are busy checking their phone during a meeting or conversation because they are multi-tasking.

It is common practice in a court of law that you are to turn off your cell phone or put it on silent while in the courtroom. In some federal courts, you cannot even bring your cell phone into the courtroom.  Why is this?  Because you are not giving the court your full attention if you are constantly checking your cell phone.

As an attorney, your clients, the court and even your co-workers deserve your full attention so that you provide them with the best possible advice and representation.  If you are not giving your work your full attention you are not performing your job to the best of your ability and your client deserves someone who will.

We are all guilty of sometimes drifting off into space or thinking about something else during a meeting or conversation that lasts too long, but listening is the key to learning, and learning is the key to evolving and in this world you either evolve or dissolve!

Trying to shift your work from multi to single tasking when needed is not easy.  Try using some of these techniques when you feel that you need to put away the multi-tasking for a particular project or client:

Give the person or people you are talking to your full attention. Stop and put down the smartphone and turn away from the computer. 

For meetings, laptops are closed, no checking cell phones or sending text messages, everyone is present both physically and mentally, each person is asked to voice their views or if they have questions at the end of a discussion (the hope is that everyone’s attention with increase communication, reduce stress and make meetings more enjoyable).

One thing I always try to remind myself is to take a deep breath and “be present” in that moment.  I have read if you hold the deep breath for a count of five seconds and slowly release it all stress and worries start to slip away, so do it more than once!