It seems that businesses are getting leaner and leaner.  They are doing more with fewer resources.  In many ways, this is a good thing.  A business can “trim the fat” and be more aggressive in a competitive marketplace.

Unfortunately, for many professionals, the ability to juggle competing priorities has resulted in a blanket solution of multitasking. I’m sure some of you reading this post right now can relate. You probably have multiple applications open, at least a dozen tabs open in your internet browser, all while listening to music and enjoying your favorite beverage.  Throw in the barrage of notifications from your smart phone and you’ve got a bonafide 3-ring circus at hand.

It’s true, some of these things are the results of individual choices, but it is an undeniable fact that we are constantly pulled in different directions.  This can feel unnatural for many people. It’s rare that anyone is comfortable trying to hit a moving target.  To remain effective at juggling tasks it is important to understand the two types of multitasking: purposeful and distraction.

Purposeful multitasking, such as listening to music while drafting an email or working, can be helpful.  It can generate ideas and make laborious tasks much more enjoyable.  However, the number of tasks should be kept to a minimum.  To be effective, you should never lose your ability to focus.  It has been proven in multiple studies that people can only concentrate on up to two things at one time.  Purposeful multitasking goes by another name: time management.  Understanding how to properly allocate blocks of time to one task while others tasks are running their course is critical to effective time management. To an observer, it may give the appearance of doing many tasks at one. When, in actuality, you understand there’s no need to “watch the paint dry”.

In contrast, distraction multitasking can kill productivity.  Sadly, this type of multitasking is far more common.  This type of multitasking is one of an erratic mind. Though it may feel like more is getting done when we multi-task the actual results would surely tell a different story.  In fact, the reason we feel so busy is because we are losing time shifting between tasks.  Five minutes in wasted time can actually result in a number much closer to forty-percent in lost productivity.

So… how many tasks were you trying to juggle again?

Rather than attempting to multitask and get everything done right now, focus on tasks in order of importance and deadlines. If another task enters your scope of vision, jot a quick note for yourself and keep moving on with the current task at hand. See it through to completion. You’ll find the results much richer and your efforts more effective.