I once lost a HUGE sale because I was multitasking. I was sitting in front of the decision-maker giving my final sales pitch. My laptop was open because I was using Power Point during my sales presentation. As I was talking to the decision-maker, I was also reading a text message from a current client and glancing at an email from my sales manager on my laptop.
What do you think happened? Instead of nailing all three — closing the new sale, handling the existing client concern via text, and answering my sales manager’s question via email — I blew all three. I was neither present nor really thinking through any of the three situations I was trying to juggle.
Have you ever done that, or worse yet, been on the receiving end of someone multitasking while trying to have a conversation with you? Its horrible. And on top of that, studies have shown that trying to do more than one task at a time takes longer, creates lower quality work, and produces more mistakes.
As a business leadership keynote speaker, I often share this exercise when speaking to successful, high-achieving professionals — especially when I’m talking to one of my key audiences of sales teams.
Multitasking Is a Myth Exercise
Step 1: This is a timed exercise, so read the directions first then time yourself to see how long it takes to do the exercise. On a piece of paper, write out the phrase, “Multitasking is a myth.” However, I want you to do it while multitasking: Write one letter of the phrase and then a sequential number underneath it. So you’ll write “M” and then the number “1” directly underneath it; then “U” and number “2” underneath the “U,” and so on—letter, then number. Letter, then number. Be sure to also put a number underneath the spaces and punctuation mark. Time how long it takes you to do this from start to finish.
Step 2: Now do the same exercise without multitasking. See each specific task through to completion: First, write out — print or cursive — the entire phrase “Multitasking is a myth.” Then, after writing the entire phrase, go back and number the letters, spaces, and punctuation underneath from 1 – 23. Again, write down how long it takes to do this from start to finish.
Step 3: Compare the two times. The second, non–multitasking time, should be much faster than the first. Look at Step 1, when you multitasked. Did you spell the phrase correctly? Some will have misspelled the phrase or forgotten some of the letters. How many numbers do you have? Some people will have fewer than 23 and some people will have more than 23 in Step 1 above. Some people will have forgotten to number the spaces and punctuation mark.
Not only does multitasking take way longer to complete tasks, but it also produces inferior results. Seeing one, and only one, task through to completion before moving on to the next will help you and your team be more productive, make better decisions, and achieve more with balance — not burnout. Check out the action-steps below to evolve your leadership and fuel-inject motivation into all you do:
Take Action NOW: (1) When working, close your email program, turn off other “push” notifications to your laptop, and put away your cell phone. In other words, remove as many distractions as possible so you are not tempted to multitask. (2) Try doing “focussed work” in 40-minute batches of time. After the 40-minutes are up, you can check your email, text messages, etc. for 10-minutes. (3) After 10-minutes of checking and responding to email, take a 10-minute break and get up and move: walk around, go to the bathroom, do something — anything — physical. Taking a short break and moving around will help you be more focussed, productive, and increase your ability to make better decisions. Do. It. Now. Before you lose another big sale or that long-time cash-cow client of yours fires you because of your multitasking!
If you like this exercise and the ideas presented here, please consider purchasing a copy of my nationwide bestselling book, The Mushin Way to Peak Performance. You can find this exercise at the end of Chapter 5 plus a whole lot more valuable tools and techniques to help you make better decisions and create a culture of business transformation in your company. And let me know how you did in the exercise above! Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @mpveltri — I promise to get back to you right away.