I have never been very good at multi-tasking. I am OK at doing a specific task and I am reasonably good at planning my time. The end result of this combination is that I can manage to deliver work that is in front of me. But in no way shape or form can I stake a claim for multi-tasking.
I have practised hard at the combination of time management and task completion. Like most skills…practice can definitely improve performance…and as well as getting better at task delivery I have also worked out one or two tactics that help. And the most important? I stay focussed.
In many respects I have found this is the key. There is nothing more disruptive than stopping and restarting. My thinking is disrupted. My logic flow is suspended. Any creativity is stifled.
Some disruptions I never avoid. Anyone who puts their head around my door and asks for a moment always gets my attention. I always answer an email or text or call from certain people…my family…my boss. But that’s about it. Everything else I ignore if I am in task mode. Until I finish. And then I check…and if nothing’s there I pick up my next task and focus again.
I have also worked out which activities I never try to combine. I can’t read email and engage in conversation. I can’t read email and contribute to a teleconference. I can’t read email and participate in a meeting. I can’t read email and drive. I have also found that these combinations can appear disingenuous. Can be dangerous. Or both
On the other hand, there are many examples of activities I can combine. I can walk and read email. I can work out and listen to music. I can listen and think at the same time. I can combine enjoying myself with working hard. I can align my personal motives and values with my company’s ambition and goals.
Most multinational companies – most companies that work in different countries across the globe – will declare an interest in multi-tasking. They may not use that expression; but they will undoubtedly talk about a desire to combine local success and global success. To have individual unit success and unified organisation success.
This may sound obvious but it is both true and not often that easy to achieve. We all work in specific locations. We all live in certain countries. We all have colleagues and friends who work where we work. Our location can feel like our affiliation. And this can lead to a natural desire to ensure work we do – where we are based – is successful as possible.
And the same applies to our specific discipline or skill set. We have a natural affinity for colleagues who have the same training, expertise or experience as us – we talk the same language as each other irrespective of which country we work in. We align through our disciplines and we frequently seek success within our discipline.
The good news is that success in both of these dimensions is good. Good provided success locally and success globally are both achieved. Good provided success within a specific skill set and success across all skill sets are both achieved. It is always an ‘and’ and never an ‘or’. We look to combine. We want to multi-task.
Even better news is that whenever I have seen or felt success across locations or skill sets it looks so good and feels so much better. Working in partnership across locations or with colleagues from different disciplines is exciting and engaging…it allows for learning and enables growth.
And it’s fun!