I’m Writing This Post While Watching TV

Ah multitasking.  It sounds so sexy and so self important and it has become a way of life for a lot of people.  Wait, hold on for just a sec, I need to answer this text…………….OK I’m back.  Because of multitasking’s popularity, it has also become one of the biggest problems for personal productivity.  The problem is likely to get worse as technology get easier to use and more readily available.

Take a look at these stats on multitasking and interruptions:

When drivers text, their collison risk is 23 times greater than when not texting.
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 2009

Organizations lose around $1,250 per user in annual productivity because of time spent dealing with spam, $1,800 unnecessary emails from co-workers, $2,100 – $4,100 due to poorly written communications.
Tom Pisello, ITBusinessEdge.com, 12/2008

In 2007, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, such as writing reports or computer code, after dealing with incoming email. They wandered off to reply to other messages or browse the Web.
New York Times, 3/25/2007

15% of Americans say they are addicted to email.
59% of those using portable devices check email as it arrives.
43% of users sleep near their email unit to hear incoming messages.
40% consider email accessibility when they plan a trip.
83% check their email once a day while on vacation.
43% check their email first thing every morning.
AOL, Opinion Research Corp., study 7/26/07

**The above stats are from Key Organization Systems.

The above stats show that we have a hard time leaving work behind with the increasing availability of e-mail and phones that allow us to browse the internet easier than ever.  Even when we are at work we aren’t as productive as we can be because we allow ourselves to be constantly interrupted.  Take the stat above from Microsoft.  It took on average 15 minutes to get back on track after an interruption.  If you are interrupted just once/hour, that’s 2 hours/day of lost productivity.

Another area that multitasking hurts our productivity is in the area of concentration on long tasks.  CNN had an article on this a couple of months back that stated that heavy multimedia users and multitaskers had a harder time staying focused on longer, intense projects because they are more easily distracted by irrelevant information.  As a business owner, focusing on intense projects is a must if you are going to work on your business and build it the way that you need to.

Work aside, another group that gets affected by multitasking is the family.  Parents have a hard time leaving their work behind especially on vacation.   They are constantly “checking in” to make sure they didn’t miss anything.  Let’s be honest about this.  Nobody’s job is that important.  Yet, we would like to think that it is and we want those around us to think that it is too.  It’s like were a bunch of mini Ron Burgundys running around.  I mean, I don’t know how to tell you this but I’ m kind of a big deal.  Therefore, I will only listen to half of what you tell me, the least important half, while I spend the entire conversation texting someone else. Because look at me, I am the Chief Implementation Associate at Rubber Dog Shit Inc.  People need me.

If you are a business owner and can’t step away from your business for a few days, it’s time to work on developing your team as well systems and processes that will allow you some freedom from the business.  Many people site work/life balance as being important to them yet few will allow themselves that opportunity when they refuse to be present in the moment.

Just because you are in the same room as your family doesn’t mean that you are actually with them.

Beyond family, research has shown that taking real breaks are good for your health as well.  Trying to work and take a vacation doesn’t make sense does it?  I’m pretty sure it doesn’t qualify as a vacation if you are calling your office every day.  Taking a stand against multitasking may help you live longer and healthier.

Maybe we just think we are more important than we really are.  Maybe it’s just the pressure we put on ourselves to be the best.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to do less.  Americans haven’t quite figured that skill out yet.  Take a look at your work day.  How you can you restructure what you are doing and what behaviors can you change to be more productive?  What effort can you make to ensure that you are creating the appropriate balance for yourself with regards to your work life and your personal life. So as I was writing this, I missed the end of CSI which is a bummer, it looked like a good episode, wait, hold on I have another call coming through. Hold that thought.  I need to take this.

26 thoughts on “I’m Writing This Post While Watching TV”

  1. I think there’s a right way and a wrong way to multi-task. Listening to a podcast while doing your daily stretches or workout or eating breakfast is not necessarily distracting (unless you’re trying to do workout meditation). It saves time. However, writing a paper while watching t.v. is not really a productive form of multi-tasking. Not the best example as I rarely consider t.v. a productive form of anything, but do you see my point? Frankly, walking down the street and talking at the same time could be called multi-tasking.

    Reply
    • I get the right way to multitask argument all the time. You are absolutely right that there are certain activities where doing multiple tasks can work. Working out while listening to a podcast is a great example. The problem is that most of us don’t know where to draw the line. We spend a lot of time trying to do multiple things at the same time that keep us from doing a great job at any singular task. Examples like: typing e-mails while talking on the phone, texting at meetings or while you are having dinner with your family or having a conversation with your cube mate while you are trying to write a report.

      Reply
    • Louche, listening to an ipod whilst doing something else like writing is not multitasking.

      Multitasking refers to doing two or more things at a conscious level at the same time. We can all multitask efficiently at an unconscious level, after all if we had to intervene to beat our heart, digest our food, blink our eye lids etc we’d soon run out of mental bandwidth.

      What Brandon described and what you mentioned aren’t the same thing at all and he’s right, simply having a conversation and writing at the same time will degrade performance massively.

      Reply
  2. Yes, that is true. But most of us have also never even considered that there is a right way and a wrong way to multi-task. Most people don’t consciously think while typing their e-mail, “I’m going to productively multi-task by typing this e-mail while talking on the phone.” For the typical person, it is a kind of mindless “faster faster faster” attitude. Same thing can be said that there’s a right way and a wrong way to restrict your calorie intake. Most people or a huge portion of people in the U.S. do so the wrong way. That doesn’t reduce the value if seeking out the right way.

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  3. Right on. I believe most of just want to believe we are good at multi-tasking but in reality are getting less done in a longer period of time. If I would just sit down and focus on the task at hand, one at a time, I know I would be more productive.
    Great points and an even better smack in the face. Challenge accepted!

    Reply
  4. Brandon, Switch tasking just got my coat assaulted with yogurt covered hands by my 18 month old! I should know better than to try to read a blog post while she is trying to get to the last of her yogurt cup with her hands instead of her spoon, right? Who else has had this happen?

    Love all the stats supporting decreased productivity as a result of so many instant distractions.

    P.S. Remember to pay attention to your little kids instead of blogging 🙂

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  5. Isn’t it amazing how our most productive days are the ones where we schedule ourselves, and the least productive days are the ones where we leave the calendar more open, check our emails every few minutes, and get fewer projects done?

    Having these technologies should increase our productivity & time doing what we love most, being with those we love most, not the other way around. Thanks, Brandon!

    Reply
  6. Brandon,

    Incredibly valuable stuff! I write a ton of stuff about how to be more productive as a business owner and in life, but all of that is wasted if people are multi-tasking (or as I call it, neither-tasking).

    Keep on rockin’ Brother!

    Reply
  7. LOL! The timing of this article is truly perfect! I experience it every day….if I slip back into multitasking, I am less productive than if I would just focus on one thing at a time.

    Working form a home office, it can be a bit difficult to turn work off…especially if you enjoy what you do! But wow, do I ever gain big mommy points when I close the lid and go do something with my daughter! It’s all about your actions—and kids get it!

    Thanks for the stats and for your witty way of getting us to understand how unproductive multitasking can be, but mostly, thanks for missing the end of CSI to share!

    Reply
  8. Loved the article. So true. I never realized I was addicted to my phone (text and email) until my child said “mom, you are always on your phone!” Kids notice these things. I have also found that when you respond to an email or text right away, people then expect you toanswer right away.
    Good Stuff!

    Reply
    • Gina,

      Thanks for stopping by. Great point about setting expectations. There is nothing worse than having people expect you to return an e-mail right away and it’s usually because we set the rules of the game.

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  9. Way to smack me on the side of the head while I was reading this and trying to sort the mess on my desk (and probably still evaluating the last appointment I had) at the same time. It was your point about the time it takes to get back to focused on the productive tasks when your mind has been distracted that I realized how much efficiency I’m losing. As always, fantastic info from a brilliant mind.

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  10. Good stuff! I am ashamed to say my kids have gotten after me several times for being on my phone while “listening” to them.

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  11. I have to LOL at this article because as an Executive Administrative Assistant; all job descriptions list: Great at multitasking – as one of their top priorities. I wish companies would get a grip and 1) read your article and 2) realize that too many mistakes are made when expected to balance cash collection, answer the phone, and take care of customers at the counter. It is a disaster, stressful and setting someone up for failure or a massive anxiety attack. Thanks for your insight.

    Reply
    • Glad you got a chuckle put of that. What business owners forget to consider is the experience to the client/customer when you have to do other things while also taking care of them. I know for a lot of business owners that I work with that they don’t do a great job delegating for their assistants either and so everything is a dire emergency which is also stressful.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  12. Focus, focus, focus. Absolutely key. With all the electronics or gadgets, I took Brandon’s advice and I leave my phone upstairs once I get home, never check email after I get home at night, and am able to focus on my family. My most productive time is when I am on an airplane and have no interruptions: i can write, edit, and finish projects in one-third of the time. Multitasking is a way to lower our focus and therefore our power.

    Reply
  13. This really hit home for me as I’m dealing with about 15 (okay 25) partly done projects and it’s driving me crazy. I realize as a mother of three, I need to be realistic about my expectations, but because my time is so limited, why don’t I use it most effectively? This gives me renewed fervor to pick a project, see it through till the end and then move on. Thanks!

    Reply

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