From One Task to Many

Today I was spending some time reading through a few blogs and came across one from a recent connection in social media guru Douglas Karr.  The article, which you can read by clicking here, talked about single tasking rather than multitasking.  He stated that he is a “heads down” type of worker and that he can only focus on one project at a time.  In his post he challenges you to turn off your Twitter applications, turn the phone upside down and to silent (making sure it’s silent and not on vibrate), and spending a chunk of your day focused on any given task.

His argument is a valid one as some folks simply work better under these types of conditions.  I, on the other hand, have to be working on multiple projects, reading more than one book at a time, and have multiple meetings schedule on a daily basis. I would be lost without a schedule like this.  If you actually take the time to think about, though, I am getting the exact amount of work done by working on multiple projects at once as he is by working on a single project.  But he has an even more valid point in suggesting a lot of time is wasted by such distractions as Twitter, Facebook,  blogging, and your iPhone.  (He uses a Blackberry but we won’t hold that against him!)  The more these services continue to grow the more folks that will be using them and the harder it will be to control.  My only hope is that companies figure a way to capitalize on these tools and figure out a way to be productive while their employees are using them.

So why do I choose to multitask?  I think  the main reason is pure boredom.  I get bored very easily and have to always have something new and refreshing to get me through the day and to challenge my creative mind.  Even if it is a walk around the office or a fresh cup of Joe, every couple of hours I need something new to look at.  For instance, right now I am reading three books at the same time.  I am reading The 80/20 Principle, The Ruins, and The Book For People Who Do Too Much.  (The last one seems fitting, doesn’t it?) The 80/20 Principle, on the other hand, is one that I would like to not only touch on here but would also like to suggest to you, Douglas.  This book discusses how a person can get 80% of their work done in only 20% of the time.  There is a log of research that has been put into this book, and the detail in which he goes is quite impressive.  So maybe those Twitter feeds are not really taking that much of our time.  I try to stay off of the social media sites during the day as much as possible, putting a heavy focus during my lunch hour, allowing me as much time to focus on my daily responsibilities.  But there are times that sneak up where I just have to post a tweet or tell Facebook what is currently on my mind.

But I am associated in so many markets and have my foot in so many doors that I have no option but to multitask.  For instance, I am a full time web designer, project coordinator and social media consultant (I wear a lot of hats there) at a firm here in Indianapolis.  I also work in the music industry doing promotions, bookings, and band management.  I spend about 2 or 3 hours a day on my own social media reputation and branding.  Oh yeah, I have a girlfriend that I really like hanging out with.  I also try to read and research as much as I can to stay ahead on design trends and the always changing technologies that lie inside this very machine that I type on.  (Have you upgraded to Snow Leopard yet?) If I get 6 hours of sleep it has been a good night.  And this pattern goes on 7 nights a week.  I never know when to slow down.

But my question to you, Douglas, is do you think that I get less work done by multitasking?  Do you think that if I did in fact turn off all the things that keep me sane would help me get more things accomplished on a daily basis?  I just keep going back to the argument above.  If you need 6 hours to complete any given project, it will take 6 hours whether you work straight through or force those Twitter updates and Facebook messages along the way.  I have never met a deadline that must be met in the given 6 hours.

So on Monday I plan to turn my phone off, not log into any social media site, and to focus solely on my projects at hand.  I will update you on my findings.  But I have a feeling that I will go insane and pull my hair out before I log into Twitter.  So if nothing else comes from this, you have inspired me Douglas.  And I thank you for your post.