Multitasking & Entrepreneurial Success – Week 3

All of us are responsible for the completion of more than one thing in our daily lives. We don’t simply rise in the morning with our only mission being to, say, make a trip to the grocery store. Instead, we each accomplish a number of different objectives in a day while also playing numerous roles in life. While daily schedules like this often seem to include limitless tasks, unfortunately, the hours in a single day are finite. This predicament leaves us with two options, and a tradeoff of sorts.

Option one: Accept that many tasks must be dismissed due to lack of time or inconvenient timing and focus on a single task at a time.

Option two: Develop a method of multitasking so as to maximize the number of tasks that can be completed, regardless of their timing.

Choosing the Second Option

To the entrepreneur, multitasking often seems like something that must be done. Without it, simply too many opportunities would fall through the cracks which would in turn hurt the business significantly. Yet research shows that, although multitasking is a highly coveted skill or attribute, the practice can actually make us less productive while damaging our brain. In her article Forget Multitasking. Real Productivity Comes From Singletasking, Lisa Evans explains that what we are really doing when we multitask is called “task switching.” Biologically, our brain is only meant to focus on one thing at a time, and when we rapidly switch tasks it “not only lowers productivity by 40 percent but it also shrinks our brains.” With this in mind, how come some people claim that multitasking is a good thing, and claim that they can do it well?

It Can Be Good for Some, Just Not For Everyone

Not everyone has the ability to successfully juggle multiple tasks at the same time. And as we just learned, our productivity can be lowered by 40 percent while doing so. So what does this mean when correlated to entrepreneurship? With so many entrepreneurs claiming a gift of multitasking, is there something special going on here and does it mean that entrepreneurship is not possible for people who choose to “singe-task”? Of course not. Perhaps hiring an assistant may be a great option that keeps things from falling through the proverbial cracks. In his book, It’s a Jungle in There, Steven Schussler points out that he is a natural multi-tasker, and that it is a “special talent.” This of course implies that since multitasking is a special talent, not all of us will possess it. In other words, some of us are better at task switching than others which in turn impacts our businesses in varying degrees.

So Which Is It?

The answer may very well be that in some cases it depends, but by and large, focusing on a single task at a time is a healthier approach to productivity. Some experts recommend “stacking” as an alternative to multitasking. This involves the paring of two activities where only one requires active mental engagement. Listening to a song while working out is stacking, while eating a meal while talking to a friend is as well. By implementing this technique, we will be able to tap into the ability of our brain to think deeply about a single subject at a time. And in the end, it may turn out that catching the deep details of a situation is more important than lightly switching from task to task – a habit that is more detrimental than we used to believe.


Sources:

Evans, Lisa (2015). Forget Multitasking. Real Productivity Comes From Singletasking. Entrepreneur.com. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247833

Mandossian, Alex (2009). Is Multitasking Killing You As An Entrepreneur? FinerMinds.com. Retrieved from http://www.finerminds.com/career-entrepreneurship/multi-tasking-productivity/

Shussler, Steven (2010). It’s a Jungle in There. Newyork, NY: Sterling Publishing

What did you think? Leave some feedback! :)

8 thoughts on “Multitasking & Entrepreneurial Success – Week 3

  1. The idea of stacking fits right in between multitasking and accomplishing one task at a time. I believe this method is perfect for someone who isn’t good at multitasking but doesn’t feel productive doing one thing at a time. As we learn more about entrepreneurship,we realize that it’s not necessary to multitask; there are other people put on this Earth to mitigate any additional stressors. We just have to be honest enough and humble enough with ourselves in order to stay on top of it all

  2. Multitasking is a skill with time and for someone it seems like a natural talent. However somehow you are in the situation that multitask is a must and or the only choice eventually help develop this skill as a habit. It ‘s good to exercise your mind by multitasking, it can keep your mind young and strong.

  3. Austin,
    I was wondering if anyone would take the opposing side from Shussler. I too have done some reading about multitasking and that we are really not that efficient when multitasking. I am curious as to whether it might be field related in regards to efficiency. You’ll see in Geoff’s blog that working in kitchens forces us to multitask or the food may never be served. If someone is going in for surgery, they certainly don’t want the surgeon multitasking. Lasar focused on the surgery is what I would want. The stacking is an interesting concept as I had not heard of it before.
    As always, thank you for the knowledge,
    Cece

  4. Thanks for mentioning that multitasking may not be for everyone. Even though I am a multi-tasker, I also acknowledge that personal preference and job duties effect the way that humans work. Natural entrepreneurial instinct says be a multitasker, but the reality is that different work styles are adapted by different people.

  5. Austin, so glad integrated the concept of single-tasking. We really have to know who we are and how we are wired. I have found that when I was in banking on the teller line, multitasking was like breathing. But I have found as my profession has change I need to do more single tasks because things are more project driven. But as an entrepreneur, I have to know how to have balance. But we need that in all things.
    mm

  6. Austin,

    I too agree that if you multitask too much it takes away from some of the productivity of each tasks, because you literally can’t give multiple things 100% attention at once, you can only give some attention to one thing and some attention to another thing at the same time. But I see how that can actually make you less productive if you try to do too much at once.

    Thanks,

    Mackensie

  7. I was not familiar with the idea of stacking before reading this post. It is quite interesting! I tend to think about my upcoming day while running at night, but never thought much about these thoughts. Now, I realize that it is actually allowing me to do two things, as opposed to one.

    Chris

  8. This past year, I realized I was awful at multi-tasking and had to get in the habit of focused action. I have ADD, and my mind is always racing around about a ton of family matters, potential projects, wondering how my friend(s) is going to that shiny object that caught my eye over in the corner. I am getting more things off my to-do-list, freeing up the energy to put towards other items on my list.

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