I watched a PBS show with time management expert Julie Morgenstern, author of “Time Management from the Inside Out”.
She suggested projects take 40% longer when they are not given your full attention.
If you accept this premise, 8 hours of work could take more than 11 hours. A 40 hour work week might require 2 extra days.
Did you wonder what happened to your weekends? We may hope to get more done when we multitask, but in reality we are fighting a losing battle.
Multitasking may work for computer systems, but was this concept ever intended for the human consumption?
Consider one of my coaching conversations…
A frustrated financial advisor begins, “Robb, I can’t get it all done! Every time I start to put a proposal together or get ready to make an important call, someone interrupts me.”
“Do you have a system for prioritizing your day,” I inquire?
“No, I don’t,” my advisor client continues, “Who has time to prioritize? I am trying to teach myself how to multitask.”
“Multitask, isn’t that something computers do,” I ask with a grin?
“Very funny,” the advisor retorts, “I figure if I can do 2 or 3 things at the same time, I will double or triple my productivity each day. For example, I make it a point to read emails when I am talking on the phone. I also let several financial plans build up, so I can do them all at the same time.”
“Let me get this straight,” I respond. “You read your personal mail while you are meeting with clients and all of your financial planning recommendations are basically the same.”
“What are you talking about,” my somewhat irritated client implores? “I give every client individual attention and would never take a cookie cutter approach to my planning process.”
“I am just trying to overstate a point,” I continued. “Reading email while you are speaking with someone on the phone is just as rude and unproductive as opening your personal mail during a client review. Letting your financial plans stack up in the name of efficiency probably means each plan doesn’t get the individual attention you intend. You may even end up doing a lot of last minute preparation for your meetings.”
“Yeah, guilty as charged,” my advisor friend says with a sigh.
“Well, that’s an easy problem to solve,” I conclude. “Let’s get started…”
Does this scenario sound familiar?
Most of us have experienced similar frustrations. We truly believe we can do more than one thing at a time – multitask. Instead of working in a logical fashion on important but not urgent tasks, we end up working furiously on urgent items that may or may not be important.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am NOT suggesting you only take on one project at a time. After all, most of us need to have multiple “balls in the air” to keep our personal and professional lives running.
But the most productive among us find a way to prioritize and schedule our activities. This eliminates procrastination, reduces stress and means we get more done in less time.
Ditch the Stress
I think it is time to debunk the current notion that multitasking is a solution to time management challenges. It is easy to say you can multitask, but it is another thing altogether to make it work effectively — and most don’t.
By definition, multitasking is a function of artificial, NOT human, intelligence. It can lead to more stress, greater frustration and the undesirable reality of getting less done in more time.
To avoid multitasking, you must embrace 3 basic time management concepts — planning, prioritizing and time blocking.
When you plan for what’s important and build your calendar around your priorities, the need to multitask goes away.
Unfortunately, as simple as these techniques may sound, they are sometimes complicated by human nature.
This seems to be particularly true for financial advisors who cherish their flexibility and view any suggestions for time management as burdensome.