You Just Need Your Own Two Arms: The Demise of Multi-tasking for IT Professionals (and Everyone Else!) | DCR Workforce Blog

You Just Need Your Own Two Arms: The Demise of Multi-tasking for IT Professionals (and Everyone Else!)

In my exploration on the subject of multi-tasking, I kept stumbling across something very strange: Most articles that talked about multi-tasking seemed to have this common image of a working professional with multiple arms. One hand was holding a coffee cup to the person’s lips, the other hand had a phone up to the person’s ear, yet another hand was writing with a pen, the other hand was typing on a keyboard and so on. I found it interesting that the subject of multi-tasking could bring about such a cross-cultural creation of an American working professional merging with arms of a Hindu god. And then I thought to myself, “Only in America!”

So what is this multi-armed, multi-tasker trying to teach us mere mortals? Can we do it all and achieve this higher level of work nirvana?  Unfortunately, research now strongly denounces multi-tasking and is now backing mono-tasking.

With this great paradigm shift, what does this mean for the god-like professional trying to achieve perfection at work? Well, to start, many Millellinals don’t wear suits and some never even set foot in the office. Also, since you don’t need so many arms, now it’s about focusing on your God-given talents and prioritizing. Hence, you can leave all the task-switching to the real gods and goddesses and you can make the best of the arms and hands you have.

Multi-tasking is a myth

Multi-tasking is really task-switching. Countless studies have shown that switching from one task to another is more time-consuming than mono-tasking because of the need to constantly re-focus. The tasks actually take longer to complete so in the end you’re actually less productive than if you had tackled each task in succession. In addition, multi-tasking results in more mistakes, an example is texting while driving, which has led to numerous accidents. Multi-tasking forces a person to spread him- or herself so thin that nothing really seems to get done.

The power of focus

It’s hard to focus on work all the time.  Your emotions, thoughts and just “to-do” list creeps into your thoughts. And then there’s the tsunami of distractions involved with technology. All these screens, apps, social media and various distractions on the internet throw you off course.

An informative video provided by best-selling author Brendon Burchard, called, “How to Stay Focused” gives some expert tips on how to stay focused and experiencing the best quality of life through mindfulness and reigning in your focus. Here’s how Burchard says to get your focus back:

  • Make fewer decisions – “The more decisions you make, the more fatigued your brain becomes. Hence, you’ll be less effective over the long term,” he explains.
  • Stop browsing so much – Things such as news feeds, tweets, apps and Facebook are small things, but Burchard says that looking at all these little things uses up valuable brain power. When you look at all these things your “brain has to decide if it wants to focus on something or not and this is exhausting your brain; and the easier it is to become distracted, the more distracted you’ll become. Focus on completing one task, and once the task is completed then move on.”
  • Define your mission for today – The main point Burchard makes is that you need some sort of idea as to what you need to do. It can be as small as a checklist to as broad as a 10-year plan. He points out that because we don’t have a clear vision of what needs to be done, we don’t accomplish much and, even worse, we’re doing work that has nothing to do with what we really want to do. On a broader note, Burchard mentions that we need to know “what we want out of life and get very clear about our mission and working our plan.” When your work lacks direction, you’re just “showing up” and others step in and give us assignments that we should be rejecting or we unintentionally accept work that has no meaning to us. Burchard points out that when this happens “focus is lost because we’re not progressing. We don’t feel good about ourselves.” You need progress because it fuels focus.
  • Once you have a mission, say “no” – Now that things are clearer about what you need to do, you have to protect your focus. You can’t give it away. Burchard says that “until you have reached your mission or are significantly on your way then you’ll have free resources to do other things.” We may want to do something new, but he says that “you have to have a criteria to use to filter what it is that you want to do. You need think about the time and energy you have to put into something new.” Now, when you focus on something it has to have a result. It has to lead to something.”
  • Get back to simplicity – You need to simplify your life. You need to focus on only a few things at a time. Burchard encourages everyone to “engage in things you care about, and say ‘no’ to those things that you don’t.”

In an effort to get and stay focused, Burchard wants you to strip away distractions, re-evaluate what you’re doing and figure out what you should be doing. Burchard understands the value of time and makes you realize that more of your time should be spent doing something that produces some sort of gain, and this can be emotional as well as financial.

Productivity tips for IT professional

IT professionals have it rough. Meetings, managing global teams, project launches, wowing clients and a million emails sent to you all in the span of seconds. With all these never-ending tasks, you might wish you had those multiple, god-like arms and hands to miraculously get your work done. But don’t fret. There is someone who understands all your frustrations and is here to help.

Ajit Nawalkha has tried and tested techniques to conquer your work challenges and get you doing more of what needs to get done. Below are the main points from Nawalkha’s video titled “The 5×5 Principle Of Producitivity.” In addition, Nawalkha has used information from the book, Making Ideas Happen to add more information to this video. Below are the main points for greater productivity:

  • The 5×5 theory – Nawalkha states that you should “pick five focus areas that you feel will have the most impact on whatever you’re trying to work on and then list five action plans that will lead you to accomplish those goals.” You can even create a grid to organize all this information. Your focus areas can be more or less than five. In additon, the goals can be long-term or short-term. The point is to focus on specific goals and come up with a plan to get there. And similar to Burchard, if any work that comes your way does not fall with your focus areas then you have to reject it. With this mentality, Nawalkha believes that you will experience significant growth in your selected focus areas.
  • Inbox zero – Nawalkha mentioned the concept of inbox zero. The idea is to immediately file an email after you open it. It should be placed in a folder that allows you to organize your tasks and get work done. I found a great video titled “Inbox Zero” from GoogleTechTalks that explains this concept in more detail. Briefly, below are the five ways to set up your new system to organize and handle your emails:
    • Delete or archive: Delete emails if you don’t need them. Any emails that you’ll need in the future, place in a separate Archive folder.
    • Respond: If you can reply to an email, send out a short message right away.
    • Defer and respond: Sometimes you open an email and you just can’t answer it for whatever reason. It may involve additional work to answer such as research or looking something up. Create a Respond folder and place those emails in that folder. Then check this folder every day and answer those emails.
    • Delegate: Maybe the task in the email is best suited for someone else so you need to delegate it, just remember to follow-up. Place a reminder on your calender.
    • Do it: If the email refers to a task to perform, take the advice of Nike and just do it. That way you can mark it complete.

I’ve also noticed that your calender will become very important after implementing this system since this will help you keep track of follow-ups and other necessary items that you may be anticipating.

There’s also the big question of the backlog of your emails. I know there are a lot of emails to organize in your inbox, but don’t wait! There’s no time like the present. The emails will never end, and they’ll just keep piling up unless you do something about it. Here’s are two action items Nawalkha recommends:

  • Slay the dragon – Nawalkha insists that “The most important thing is done the first thing in the morning.” You can even do this task before coming to work. It will make your day go smoother.
  • Repeatedly follow-up – Don’t just follow-up with people once. According to Nawalkha, you should continue to make requests until you get what you need. He states that “if your results depend on someone else’s work, have a policy of nagging until the work is done.” You might not be the most popular person in the office, but you will start getting work done. You have to accept the fact that you have to check up on people, otherwise productivity may suffer.

We all have so much going on in our personal and professional lives that you’re bound to be in situations where everything comes at you all at once. But the important matters or ones that we feel strongly about require focus, organization and a vision that leads to progress.

I hope that the information in this post gives professionals in the IT industry the confidence to flex their muscles and do some heavy lifting at work while bringing more focus, productivity and follow-up.

What do you vote for? Multi-tasking or mono-tasking? Why?

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.

One response to “You Just Need Your Own Two Arms: The Demise of Multi-tasking for IT Professionals (and Everyone Else!)”

  1. Lalita Vempati says:

    Multi-tasking is almost forced onto most women I know, as they manage chores for home and office duties simultaneously – and wishing a day had more than 24 hours! The insights and guidance provided here actually come as a reprieve.

    It stands to reason that when you juggle too many balls, one (or more) of them has to drop. Goodbye multitasking, or should we say good riddance!?

Neha is responsible for developing and overseeing marketing strategy and brand identity at DCR. She and her team collaborate on marketing and sales strategies and product development for new initiatives.