Yes, you can sing while taking a shower, and you can listen to music while walking and planning your day. But when it comes to the really important stuff, forget multitasking because it’s costing you time and money.
Let’s say you’re answering emails while talking on the phone. A great example of multitasking, right? Wrong. In this case you’re not doing two things at once – rather, you’re alternating your attention between the two tasks. You can’t listen to the person on the phone while you’re forming your email response. And you can’t formulate your thoughts to speak back to the person on the phone while you’re reading the next email. So what you end up doing is a little bit of task A, then a little bit of task B, and back and forth. And neither task is done well. The person on the phone can tell you’re not listening, and the email response you write misses the mark.
This goes for any task that you can’t put on autopilot. You can shower, walk, run, drive, make coffee and many other tasks without thinking about them because they’re routine and you’ve performed them many times before. But when you’re doing anything that takes real thinking, it’s best to focus just on that task and nothing else.
And avoid distractions. Checking your email, answering the phone and even getting up to get a cup of coffee and take you off track. You lose momentum and you have to backtrack to see where you left off. A recent study of office employees demonstrated that when their work was interrupted, it took them an average of 25 minutes to get back into it.
Anything that requires engaged thinking – writing, reading, speaking, etc., is not something you should try to juggle because it will actually cost you MORE time and provide less than stellar results.
So even if you have to lock yourself in a room, disable your email and turn off your cell phone to keep from getting distracted, I suggest you do it. You can answer those emails and return those phone calls later when your work is completed.