I broke a rule

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I have an important rule about multi-tasking: Don’t do it with high brain function activities. I tell my clients this over and over and over. I drive home that point because multi-tasking can end up costing more time in the end or causing you to complete a project in a less than stellar fashion because you were not fully focused on it.

So, what do I mean about multi-tasking high brain function activities? You shouldn’t do two things at once which require thought or concentration. Examples:

  1. Driving + Texting: These require thinking and decision-making, so they should not be done at the same time.
  1. Shredding Papers + Watching TV: Neither of these requires thought, so they’re safe to complete at the same time.

Last week my computer hard drive crashed, so I was a little behind in printing my checks through my accounting system for the payment cycle. One of the checks I needed to create was for BK&A Advertising, who’d invoiced me the week before after creating my kickin’ new business cards. I’m pretty sure they wanted their money ASAP. To save time, I decided to answer emails while waiting for each check to go through the printer.

Checking email is a high brain function task because you need to read, think and respond. The bill paying process is a high brain function task because you need to pay the correct entity the correct amount, sign off, and make sure it gets delivered to the correct place.

I saved time because while my next email was loading (I have a slow ISP), I would shift my attention to the next step of the bill paying process. When the email finished loading, I’d leave the bill paying and return my attention to the email. Back and forth. Back and forth. At the time, I thought I was saving a lot of time. After all, I was doing something productive during my page load time. Looking back at it, I probably saved a total of about 7 minutes.

Fast forward to the email I received from BK&A:

Hi Helene,

 

I gave your check to our Finance team when I got back from the meeting, and they pointed out to me that the check wasn’t signed.

 

Do you want me to mail it over to you for a signature? Do you want me to come by your office? Let me know what works for you and we will get it all worked out.

 

Thank you!

 

Ryan McNitzky

Feeling like a total doofus and being only ten minutes away and not wanting them to wait on funds any longer, I went over there. Ten minutes there. A few minutes to chat with Ryan. Ten minutes back.

Total time spent: approximately 25 minutes.

Time previously saved: 7 minutes.

Total time lost: 18  minutes.

So much for saving time by multitasking. I fell off the “focus” wagon, but I’m back on it again. No more rule breaking for awhile!

Feel free to share below any multi-tasking lessons from which you’ve learned.

 
2 Comments
  • lifestoriesalive
    Posted at 14:01h, 07 August

    You are spot-on with your thoughts, Helene. I admire the fact that you are willing to admit your mistake and give advice on how to correct it. I blogged about multi-tasking a couple of years ago http://tinyurl.com/2ftk5uy. While the example was different from yours, the message was the same…multi-tasking is something that should be avoided.

    Keep up the good work and sharing great information!

    • LivingOrderSA
      Posted at 17:56h, 07 August

      Hi, Mike! I loved your post about texting and listening. Not multitasking is a tough rule to live by, but a most important one. Thanks for stopping by!

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