Hey business owner — STOP MULTI-TASKING

Each month we tackle one key component of running a small business. This month we’re honing in on how to un-multitask so we can maximize focus, increase productivity, and enhance leadership.

multitasking effects

Multitasking helps us do many things at once–so we get more done in less time. Right? Wrong. Once I started looking into it, I was shocked at what the research shows. What if I told you that multitasking causes up to a 40% drop in productivity and that interruptions cost the American economy nearly $650 billion dollars a year? You might be thinking, “Well that’s not me — I’m actually great at multitasking”. Think again. Studies show that only about 2.5% of us are actually able to do it efficiently.

But Brad! Running a business means I have to multitask; I’m the business owner! I have employees to manage, clients to handle, and projects to deliver — and don’t forget about payroll, hiring that new employee, and writing that proposal!

I know how it is! It always seems that when I try to do just one thing, I end up doing a million other things. I sit down at my desk to focus and:

  • My employees keep knocking on my door with questions
  • Clients call without warning throughout the day
  • Small fires sprout up everywhere–and someone has to put them out!

Work on being present

When we’re present (i.e., all in one place, focused on the current moment, in the current space, with the person who is actually in front of us…) we’re able to really give our attention to one thing. And when we do that, we’re way more productive!

The holidays are a great time to practice being present. While we have a little bit of time off and may be able to grab bigger chunks of downtime, we are pulled in many different directions. The demands of family, the demands of the business at year end, and the expectations to give employees TLC, are like a perfect storm over the holidays, right? The temptation to multitask seems like it is never bigger. And that is why it is a great time to ignore those temptations and be present where you are. If you are spending time with your family, be with your family. If you need to put in some hours on a specific project, do just that. Attend to that project and nothing else; in any case, what happens during the time you are present will be more meaningful, have greater impact, and STICK better than what you do when you are juggling 2, 3, 4 or 5 things.

BUT. As a business owner, you have to multitask! …Right? It’s just not possible to have your attention only on one thing!

This is a deeply ingrained myth. That’s why we’re talking about it all month long. We have several colleagues writing on how they’ve successfully focused on one thing, and how it has freed them up to stop multitasking.

My question to you

What do you do to stay focused and cross items off your to-do list? Leave a comment and let me know — we’re looking to compile members’ thoughts and write them up in a blog post at the end of the month.


Free tool of the month

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Brad Farris

As principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, Brad Farris has experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units for a family-owned conglomerate with sales of $2 million to $25 million.
When not working Brad enjoys cycling, cooking and the NFL. He is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • Edward Curran

    Bull’s eye! I thought maybe I was simply, secretly, somehow defective or losing my egde–this is absolutely what I have been waking up to for some time now. And quite reluctantly at that.

  • http://www.enmast.com/ Brad Farris

    I wish it wasn’t true Ed. In my 30′s I thought I could do it, but now I realize it’s a no-go. I’ve even started trying to close my eyes when I’m on the phone to gain more focus and attention on the caller.

    Giving up multi-tasking is hard, but the benefit is, WOW, it’s great to really connect with people. And when I’m JUST working on one thing I can get really focused and productive.

  • Barrett Lombardo

    Prioritize and line up your day first thing in the morning.
    Put deadline dates on to-do items.
    Put devices away during meetings.
    Close doors when alone time is needed to focus.
    Block off the calendar specifically for open-door time.
    Let phone calls go to voicemail and use a voice-to-text transcription service like Google Voice – it’s much faster to read than listen.

  • Helen Levinson

    this is a great post!! I used to make lists at the end of the day, only to find myself not accomplishing a darn thing the next day. And, as the list of “to do’s” became longer, I was exhausted by 2:00pm everyday. So I decided to stop making lists and focus on 2-3 priority items that need to be addressed each day. With this method, I tend to get more done, and feel less drained.

  • http://www.enmast.com/ Devan Perine

    Love these, Barrett!!