Monday, March 30, 2009

Multi-tasking (is) for idiots

As a reformed multi-tasker I know how hard this might be to take. Mutli-tasking does not work. Does. Not Work. It dilutes your efforts and attention, turning it into questionable junk. It seems every role these days require we each wear a haberdashers rasher of hats, but just like wearing a hat, it makes sense to only wear ONE at a time.

Here's how I detoxed my office.
I made a little note behind my computer that only I can see. It says, "What did you accomplish today?" This helps to keep me in check when I start wandering and focused on creating results with tangible impact. Each Friday I review my tasks and make sure the list is complete and prioritized for the upcoming week.

Fend off time vampires.
Forward calls to voice mail and turn off email. These tools were created to catch missives while you are unavailable and not to make you salivate like Pavlov's dog - let them do their job - turn them off. While you're at it, find the alert sound for your email and turn that off too. Fending off vampires at your door is a bit trickier and one I'll blog about in an forthcoming post. For now, let folks know you're in the middle of something and will need a few minutes to get back with them. Be realistic as to when you expect to get to them. Don't say "five minutes" if it's more like an hour.

Prioritize your most important (highest value) tasks.
I keep a list of all my important tasks, the dates they are due, and who had requested them. I subsidize this list with additional tasks such as staff one-on-ones, presentations, monthly reporting, budgeting, and innovation ideas. With most commitments, I tend to want them complete one week in advance of "actually" being due. This gives me time to reflect, edit, and polish.

At the start of each week I review the tasks I have set for the week - at least the one's I know about at this point. I consider which, if any, tasks would provide good growth opportunities for my staff. Things like reporting, research, and presentations are always prime candidates since they are tasks I know cold and can use to help others grow in their understanding of the operation. I'm a fan of this model and have found it develops trust and energizes those asked to expand thier duties. It also has the added bonus of providing insight into how the team views the organization.

Once the task list is updated - note I don't ever remove items, they are still on my radar for tracking purposes - I settle into the first task and do not stop until I have it completed. I really wanted there to be a bigger secret, something grand and never before heard, but that's all there is to it.

What techniques do you use to keep yourself on task and on track?

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