It may surprise you to know that multitasking, task switching or serial tasking as it is sometimes referred to, is not as efficient as you might think. If you want to consistently produce high quality work in less time then you need to embrace single tasking.
How many open browser tabs do you have up on your computer right now?
A quick scan of mine has identified that I’ve 28 tabs open. The majority are work related but a few imposters have crept in. I also have a desktop filled with files, folders, and documents all vying for my attention.
This constant juggling and interference makes single tasking – the completion of one task at a time with zero distraction, difficult. Add to this the email notifications and reminders that encourage me to hop on to fire off a quick reply. All of this creates an environment that fosters multitasking. Some may argue it is ‘hitting two birds with one stone’ but there is much thought that these interruptions and distractions can reduce efficiency.
How Does Multitasking Impact Productivity
When we multitask we:
- make more errors than when we focus on a single task
- take longer to complete tasks – studies have identified that productivity can be down by as much as 40% when we multitask
- fail to remember nearly as much detail when we have completed the task when multitasking
Is Multitasking Good For Business?
As a small business owner you often have no choice but to cover many roles. Continually switching between them is unproductive at best but can be damaging to your business. Research has shown that a three second distraction leads to double the number of mistakes. Add an additional 4.4 second interruption and the error rate quadruples.
For many small businesses multitasking is seen as the only way to accomplish more in less time. Without the luxury of a larger workforce the ability to change work hats frequently is viewed as the way to drive the work rate and grow your business. The reality is that you backtrack a lot, as every time you switch tasks you have to recap on where you last left off. This is where mistakes and time wasting occur.
If you need to produce high quality work in a limited amount of time then it pays to focus on one task at a time. The more you single-task, the more bang for your buck you’ll gain as the quality and productivity of output will increase.
Single tasking in a modern world
In such a competitive world the drive to get more done in less time becomes overwhelming. Most of us fall into the habit of multitasking, as the allure of getting more done is too strong to ignore. The view that those people who can somehow squeeze another 5% more work into their day will come out on top. Despite knowing the argument is flawed many of us still persist.
The allure of serial tasking is not just confined to work pressure. Pro-longed periods of focused time require high levels of concentration. Whereas bouncing between task alleviates the boredom and keeps thing fresh and interesting.
“[Multitasking] feels fun, even if it’s draining our cognitive reserves.” Adam Gazzaley, University of California: Quartz
The alternative to task switching is to encourage you and your team to devote their time and energies to their specific areas of expertise. The concept of playing to the team’s strengths is, in essence, single tasking.
The Benefits of Single Tasking
- fewer mistakes made
- an improvement in business productivity and ultimately business performance
- a reduced risk of burnout
- it allows us to track time and therefore accurately cost a project
- we can think more clearly and creatively when focusing on one task. It allows us to come up with ideas and solutions that might not otherwise have entered our heads had we been task switching.
How To Successfully Single Task
There are practical ways to reduce the risk of us reverting to our ‘old ways’. This involves removing the distractions and limiting interruptions. Silence your phone, close all open tabs, turn your Slack to “do not disturb” and block out times during the day to check your email.
Despite doing all of the above the truth is that sometimes there simply isn’t enough time, staff or expertise to deal with the projects or work required. Delegation and outsourcing provide cost effective ways of maintaining strong business performance and growth.
Rather than taking on the cost of an additional hire, or reverting to multitasking, it is worth considering taking on a professional to help manage the workload.
The Power Of Outsourcing
- saves time
- reduces stress and burnout
- avoids costly mistakes
- improves productivity
- encourages business growth
- concentrated periods of work can encourage a more creative approach
- your business will be far more likely to meet business projections
Top Tasks That You Can Outsource
- Office management (setting up of business procedures)
- Database management
- Spreadsheet management
- PowerPoint and keynote presentations
- Google drive organisation
- Minute taking and distribution
- Setting up and management of social media accounts
- Website management
- IT and business systems
- Report creation
- Form creation
- Online research
- Writing and managing blogs and moderating comments
- Voicemail checking
- Client invoicing
- Project management and training tasks
- Preparation and management of company manuals
- Social media management tasks (Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest)
- Travel arrangements
- Customer service
- Travel and expense management
- General correspondence.
- Personal errands (Purchasing Gifts Online, etc.)
- Deadline/deliverables tracking
- Website content
- WordPress management
- System implementation
- Contract management
A Virtual Assistant
An experienced and intelligent VA can bring professionalism, productivity and organisational skills to your business? Buy Time assign each of their clients a dedicated assistant on an entirely flexible and pay as you go basis. They are happy to work by the hour, the day or to create a plan to suit you – simply buy time as you need it. With no contract, subscription charges or minimum usage requirement, there are no real overheads to consider. Buy Time operates wherever you may need us; be it from your home or office, from our own desks or out and about getting things done.
If you would like to have an informal chat about how Buy Time can help, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 292 0566.