Multi-Tasking – Unproductiveness Disguised

multi-taskingWe are taught much of the time that multi-tasking is a good thing.  The ability to multi-task well can set you apart in the business world.  So many job descriptions and job postings call for good multi-taskers.  Are you a good multi-tasker?  Sure you are!  Who, in their right mind, is going to say, “I can’t multi-task my way out of a paper bag.”  Or who is going to say, “I can multi-task, but I think it’s a stupid thing…people get distracted and get less done…do what’s most important first, then move on to the next task.”

If they want you to be able to multi-task, then by all means don’t say that first statement above.  And don’t say the second one either.  But the second one makes sense…and in reality, it’s probably what everyone really wants from their employees.  They want:

  1. You to be able to identify what’s most important
  2. Focus your efforts on that most important thing
  3. Be able to kill it, bag it, and move on to the next most important task
  4. And do all this quickly, efficiently, and without always being told what’s next on the list

The employee that can do all these things – that’s the one that will get hired, succeed, move up in the organization and…in the case of project management…consistently deliver success and leadership on the projects they are managing.  Let’s discuss these…

Do what’s most important first

The ability to sift through the mess and identify what the highest priority activity is takes confidence, experience, leadership, and decision-making skills.  Take charge, grab the most important task and see that it gets done…or at least gets delegated to the top of someone’s list.

Multi-tasking sounds good…in theory.  And there are definitely times when we absolutely must multi-task.  But it can lead to inefficiency, distraction, and more important activities remaining either partially completed or falling through the cracks.   Ensuring that what’s important is getting done first is critical to the success of the project.

Finish it and move to the next

It’s not enough to just identify the most important task – you must make sure it gets done – either by you or someone else.  But it has to happen.  Finish it before moving on or follow-up with the team member you’ve assigned it to.  Just make sure it gets done before moving too far ahead.

Do it without excessive oversight

Finally, make sure you do it without too much oversight.  Your PMO director or hiring organization may say they want a multi-tasker, but what they really want is what I mentioned above.  A self-starter….a go-getter…someone who can see what’s important and do it without them always stepping in and telling you what’s important and what you should be doing next.  And in the project management world, the PM needs to be able to quickly and efficiently sort through the project tasks and issues and know what needs to be done next – especially when there are issues on the project that need addressed.

What must be done right now?  Do it or get it assigned.  Maintain close oversight of it if you’ve delegated it and just do it right if it’s your PM task.  We must score victories on the critical tasks first before we move on to the next.  That’s how every day should start out.  Always start the day by asking yourself, ”What’s the most important thing that I need to do for my project right now…today?”  Do that, and then move on and ask that question again, and again, and again…

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM author with over 25 years experience as a developer, manager, project manager and consultant. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.

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