Book review – The Myths of Multi-tasking (Dave Crenshaw)

I thought I was great at multi-tasking and getting a lot of work done by doing so until I listened to this book: The Myths of Multi-Tasking by David Crenshaw. It’s a very easy to listen to book that takes you through the journey of a client who also believes they are awesome at multi-tasking.

The biggest eye opener for me was in doing the following task: on a piece of paper, do two things:

  1. Time yourself to write ‘Multi-tasking’ and ‘1 – 13’ then
  2. Time yourself to write one letter/number from ‘Multi-tasking’ and ‘1 – 13’ until you completed it.

When I did this it took me nearly double the time to complete the second task to the first, which showed that if you start a task, finish it before moving on to the next one.

The book also bought up the term ‘switch tasking‘ which is a very interesting term. Multi-tasking doesn’t really exist because you can’t do more than one thing at a time – whenever you engage with this you are actually switch tasking. Basically, switching between tasks and not doing either very well.  Below are some steps to help you stop switch tasking:

STEPS TO STOP SWITCH TASKING:

1. Recognise that multitasking is a lie.

2. Understand the difference between background tasking and switch tasking (background tasking is doing another task while waiting for the printer to finish printing or something that doesn’t involve a deep thought process).

3. Become aware about the truth of how you have been using your time on a weekly basis (where does the time go, where do the interruptions come from).

4. Create a new and realistic budget of how you will use your time on a weekly basis (this is a difficult thing to do, but means that if you plan your week up front you can get out of work on time without it dipping into your weekend).

5. Schedule reoccurring appointments with your key people (these should be weekly meetings to run through things that are critical to the business – it helps to stop the interruptions).

6. Set expectations and create personal shop hours to let people know when you will be available (free from this time until this time and communicate to all parties).

7. Resist making active switches (finish the task you are on before you go onto something else).

8. Minimise all passive switches (control your day, don’t let others control it – email, phone calls).

9. Give people your full attention when you are with them (don’t answer your phone, be present).

10. Schedule plenty of travel time between appointments (include this in your meeting times and leave so you aren’t stressed when you arrive).

11. Never commit to something without your calendar in hand (I try to do this with my iPhone, but I think I’m going old school next year and getting a paper diary – sad, but true).

DEFINITIONS

  • Active switches – you choose to make (you initiate the switch)
  • Passive switches – whose are the ones that come at you without your choice (others initiate the switch – questions, emails, phone calls).

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT?

So from this book I have learnt that:

  • TRAVEL: I need to allow time for travel and actually leave when I say I will.
  • FINISH: Stay on one task until it’s finished (even writing this blog post was difficult bc I have my email client open and know that I have unread emails – argh – you need to close it and only respond when you have time to do so.
  • PHONE: Only answer the phone or return calls when I have time scheduled in.
  • MULTI-TASKING: You can’t multi-task, it is a lie and actually wastes more time than it saves.

——————————————————-

Moral of the post: take control of your work week, write down what you need to achieve for the week and focus on one task at a time until it is finished.

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One Response to Book review – The Myths of Multi-tasking (Dave Crenshaw)

  1. Chris says:

    Hmmm, I agree with much of the thrust of your review, but I’d add that multi-tasking can work of you combine appropriate tasks. I look at this here if you’re interested; http://timetosavetime.com/2011/06/the-myth-of-multi-tasking/

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