Time Management Versus Multi-Tasking

By JJ DiGeronimo, Cloud Strategy, Vision Practice Manager at VMware & CloudNOW Career Blogger

I often wonder at the frenzy of our lives and what example we are unwittingly showing our children. Women are known for being champion multi-taskers while men seem to be the one trick wonder. We often think our ability to juggle multiple tasks at once is a sign of superior management and yet, how often does it lead to unnecessary stress, silly mistakes and great frustration?

I recently read an article that said multi-tasking is, in fact, the worst thing to do if you want to get a bunch of stuff done at once. I’m not referring to the times when we throw a load of laundry in while browning the ground beef for dinner and helping our kids with homework. I’m talking about more brain tasking projects like answering email at work while proof reading a report and talking to our boss on the phone. New handheld devices and smart phones make it too easy to attempt more than one project at a time.

If we could see our behavior – sometimes frenzied – from our kid’s perspective, what would we learn about ourselves?

Learning the concept of time management actually begins at an early age. We tell our children to pick up their toys or they won’t get to watch a television show or have dessert. Or we ask them to finish their homework and clean their room before they can go out and play. These are great opportunities for teaching some of the tips for classic time management.

In an article from Penelope Trunk offering 10 tips for time management, she actually offers a tips that seems contrary to success when she suggests we should dare to be slow:

Remember that a good time manager actually responds to some things more slowly than a bad time manager would. For example, someone who is doing the highest priority task is probably not answering incoming email while they’re doing it. As Markovitz writes: “Obviously there are more important tasks than processing email. Intuitively, we all know this. What we need to do now is recognize that processing one’s work (evaluating what’s come in and how to handle it) and planning one’s work are also mission-critical tasks.”

What about multi tasking, you ask? It works for me. Well, in an article from Peter Bregman on the Harvard Business Review blog, he says that when we multi task, we lose I.Q.:

A study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs. What’s the impact of a 10-point drop? The same as losing a night of sleep. More than twice the effect of smoking marijuana.

Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality,our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.

As working women, mothers, significant others and community leaders we have more than our share on our plates. Often we feel overwhelmed by our tasks and find it challenging to prioritize when things come at us left and right and we end up putting out fires rather than being in charge of our lives.

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