Multitasking. Ah, the practice (some may say, bad habit) of doing multiple activities at once, usually resulting in sufficient, but not fantastic, outcomes. I dare say we all do it, some better than others. After all, for many professionals, the ability to multi-task is a hallmark of not only “effectiveness,” but great pride and admiration!
But let’s take a look at what’s really going on here. For most of us, regardless of industry or organization, customer service is critical. In the consulting world, it’s what gets you repeat customers. In the public safety world, it’s what garners you public praise (or lack of public criticism, anyway). In the corporate world, how you respond and relate to your customer base that will mark your success and failure for years to come. In healthcare, rising patient access to information via online data is driving the need for physicians and hospitals to focus more on the people side of treating “expectations” rather than just physical symptoms. You get the point…it’s everywhere.
And how do we accomplish the drive for higher and higher customer service and client expectations? We simply get better at doing more with less. Quicker call volume. Faster response time. Big and better reports. Oh yeah, and usually, in this day and age, with the same or lower staff levels….all the better to multitask, right?
Well, here’s the catch….multitasking isn’t always the best solutions. That’s hardly news, though, right? I mean, we’ve all seen the reports, heard the stories. As much as it’s held up as the paragon of effectiveness, it’s really the effectiveness that ultimately suffers.
Let’s assume simply not multitasking isn’t in the cards. What other solutions are out there? If we can’t reduce the overall level of work, can we at least restructure how we approach it?
Tony Schwartz, Chief Executive Officer of The Energy Project and renowned author, recently addressed this issue in an article entitled Relax! You’ll Be More Productive. His point is that while control over the amount of work we have to accomplish may not be particularly under our control, the level of energy with which we bring to that work is!
In essence, it’s about not allowing our energy levels to reach burnout…it’s ensuring you’re refueling mentally, physically, and emotionally before your tank is too empty. The key, according to Schwartz, lies in structuring restoration into our days and our lives. It means taking those vacations when they arrive (without access to email and smart phones). It’s about understanding that a 10-hour workday with no breaks is far less effective than three 90-minute “mini workdays” built around periods of renewal and restoration each day.
But, how do we do that, both for ourselves and for our organizations? Coaching and mentoring is a starting point. As we work with executives and leaders at all levels of organizations, we must start interjecting this idea of restoration as the source of productivity, not increased multitasking. We must insist and peer mentor our associates and co-workers that it’s not only okay to take some downtime, but it’s expected! And most importantly, we need to work on ourselves and our own habits that stand in the way of restoration. Self-awareness and self-discipline are the seeds upon which personal restoration (and ultimate productivity) are sown.
So, let’s start by focusing on ourselves. Make incremental changes to incorporate restoration periods into our days. Then hold peers accountable. And lastly, begin proselytizing to our clients and business leaders wherever we can. Together, we can increase productivity by just minutely switching our focus.
As others have said….instead of doing more, let’s just do more smarter.