Multi-taskingMulti-tasking is for losers.

Multi-Tasking is for LOSERS! Audio Version

That’s right, you heard me. L O S E R S.

Why so harsh today Kalynn, somebody puke in your coffee? No, I’m just tired of repeating the same mistake and my guess is 9 out 10 of you small business owners are doing the same. So the buck stops here.

I’ll tell you a quick story. I was with entrepreneur Joel Comm of Infomedia, Inc a couple of years ago. Joel, if you don’t know him, is the author of The Adsense Code, Click Here to Order, Twitter Power and maybe another book or two, but those are his books on my shelf. Anyway, Joel told a small group of us, there were about 10 of us in the room, that, like many of us, he started his business himself, wearing all the proverbial hats.

That’s the typical journey of nearly all entrepreneurs and small business owners. You start a business because you want to help people, or you’re really really good at something and decide to make it your vocation not just a beloved hobby, or you had an innovative idea that you knew would change an industry or the world at large so you made the leap to business ownership. The story is very familiar for every entrepreneur.

But what Joel told us, and I’ve always kept at the back of my mind, is that every time he reached the decision that it was probably time to hire an employee to take some of the workload, he resisted for a while. Kept trying to take care of it all himself, whether it was not wanting to let go of control, or not knowing what to delegate or worry that the income wasn’t really there to support hiring another person. When he eventually bit the bullet and hired, his revenue ALWAYS, increased as a result.

Multi-tasking – Multi Tasking – Multitasking No Matter How You Spell It, It’s Got To STOP

Now I think there are several reasons for that. First, you aren’t as productive as you think you are when you’re multi-tasking. John Medina, author of the book Brain Rules says,

“To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.”

Our brains follow concepts sequentially, or one at a time. We are biologically incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time. So while we tell ourselves we’re multi-tasking, the reality is we are switching back and forth from one task to another with incremental delays occurring in between which slows down progress and increases mistakes.

A great example of this is driving while talking on a cell phone. You’ve all done it, I’m sure. I’m equally guilty. It wasn’t until researchers started measuring, under controlled conditions, the effects of cell phone distractions on a driver that the data told them driving while talking on a cell phone is like driving drunk in relation to reaction time. Cell phone users while driving get in more wrecks than anyone except VERY drunk drivers.

So we really don’t multi-task as well as we think we do. Another famous Internet guru, Mike Filsaime, gave a demonstration about his business on a webinar I listened to once where he discovered the same productivity vs. multi-tasking issue and decided to solve it in this way. He saw that if he had say three projects going on, we’ll call them Project A, Project B and Project C, that when he scheduled time to work on A, B and C the same week or day, it took three times as long to finish the three projects. Now, I can’t show you the graph he used but just imagine: if it takes 8 hours to do Project A, 12 hours to do Project B and 20 hours for Project C that’s one 40 hour work week with no distractions. For argument’s sake, these would be small projects in the big scheme of things, or maybe smaller parts of a larger project.

If he spent 2 hours each workday on each of the three projects that meant Project A would be complete in 4 workdays. Project B would be completed in 6 workdays and Project C would be complete in two weeks or 10 workdays, assuming a standard five-day workweek.

So Project A took almost an entire workweek, B finished into the second workweek and C took an entire two workweeks assuming no distractions during the 2 hours each day. You and I both know, there were distractions during those 2 hours every day, so maybe the efficiency wasn’t as great as it should have been. In fact, I find it’s often a good idea to figure out how many hours, undistributed, you need to accomplish a task and then double it for a realistic time frame to completion.

Now let’s rework the handling of those three projects if we take away multi-tasking. If he worked on Project A solely on Monday, it could have been accomplished in one workday of 8 hours (and remember we’re ignoring how distractions play into these numbers). Project B could have been started Tuesday and finished Wednesday afternoon, making both A and B complete in 2 ½ days rather than the original four days and six days respectively that it took when they were multi-tasked. Project C could have been started on Thursday and completed the following Monday, nearly a full week ahead of schedule when multi-tasking was removed from the equation.

While we may feel, psychologically, that we are accomplishing more by multi-tasking the reality is that we are doubling or tripling the amount of time it takes to finish the task.

When we wear all the hats in our business, we are doing ourselves a disservice. That’s why I believe Joel always had an increase in revenue when he hired an employee. We simply are not as efficient as we think we are when we’re doing it all ourselves. We are much better off following the Pareto Principle also known as the 80 20 rule.

The 80 20 rule states that we should spend 80% of our time doing the 20% of activities that we are best at, or enjoy the most or that we find most productive, that bring us the most joy. That means stop multi-tasking and start spending nearly all your time just doing what you were meant to do. Hire or sub-contract or barter the other 80% of stuff that you are just multi-tasking because it’s not efficient and it’s certainly not profitable to your business.