You won’t talk to more than two or three executives before hearing about the need to multitask. Two or three more and you’ll start to get the idea that multitasking is almost considered a moral good.
On the other hand, you won’t need to look very hard to learn that multitasking is a myth. LMGTFY: http://onforb.es/137OyTM. At best, multitasking is the rapid shifting of attention from a single task to another (think: short-order cook) and at worst a quality wrecking ball (think: a student doing homework while talking on the phone, texting, with a chat window open, and little sister nearby who wants to play).
Executives are busy folks. Being busy, important, and in demand all have their own rewards. It’s simply hard to resist when someone absolutely must have your input or the contract will be lost, the sale will fall through, or supply will be disrupted. But, how to choose?
Knowing how to choose is about setting priorities. In fact, not setting priorities leads to the pressure to “multitask” in the first place; there are simply too many opportunities/issues to address and too little time. Drucker observed that either we choose the priorities or the pressures of the business will. Who among us would volunteer to have our priorities determined for us? However, that is exactly what happens when we try to do it all.
Drucker urged us almost 50 years ago to do what today’s science is proving as fact. We can only do one thing at a time. As soon as we start looking for ways to switch from being busy to achieving results, doing one thing at a time not only starts looking very attractive—it’s also lightning fast compared to 20 or 30 half-done projects.
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