Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Multitasking is a myth

Bivocational ministers are always looking for ways to save time.  Many of us like to multitask in an effort to accomplish as much as possible.  For a long time this was my mindset.  Unfortunately, research now shows that multitasking actually makes both tasks take longer because it is impossible to multitask.  In his excellent book What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done Matt Perman points to research that provided evidence that the human brain cannot effectively do two things at once.

Rather than multitasking Perman writes that we are actually switchtasking, switching back and forth between tasks.  Every time we switch between one task to another there is an interruption, and these interruptions have a cost associated with them.  These costs can add up and cause us to be much less efficient and effective.

Of course, bivocational ministers are not the only ones struggling with having the time to do all the things we are expected to do.  In our busy culture today most of us have that problem.  We need to remember that time is a resource, and like all resources it is limited.  Perman reminds us that "The scarcity of time is the reason we need to do one thing at a time."  We must concentrate on doing the most important thing first and then when that task is completed we can move on to the next task.

It's easy to be tempted to complete a bunch of small tasks early so we can concentrate on the more important stuff later.  I still fall into that temptation occasionally.  But, too often we spend so much time doing the small things that we find there is not enough time to complete the more important tasks that needed to be done.  We are then forced to scramble and sometimes do a poor job at the most important things we should be doing.

Many time management people will tell you that one of the most important things you can do is to take a few minutes each evening to look at the next day's schedule.  What is the most important thing you must do that day?  That becomes your number one priority, and that is where you start.  When you complete that task then you can move on to the next most important thing.  At the end of the day you may not have completed everything on your to-do list, but you will have done the most important tasks.

The ability to multitask would be great if we could do it, but we can't.  It's a myth and it's a costly one to pursue.  It is far better to focus on one thing at a time, stay on it until completion, and then move on to the next most important priority item.  At the end of the day we will have accomplished more and will have done the most important things that needed to be done.  That is how to make the most effective use of your time.  You may want to read more of Perman's book for other great ideas.

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