Cruise Tips / Isn’t multi-tasking great? Nope. Here’s why

The loss of focus in the mental shifting of gears actually takes up a lot of our time and makes us really inefficient.

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By: Lynda Sinclair

If you’re like me, you are proud of your multi-tasking abilities, able to shift gears between projects and conversations and emails at the blink of an eye.

Well, we both may be very wrong.

In this book ‘The Myth of Multi-tasking (How Doing it All Gets Nothing Done)’, Dave Crenshaw suggests that changing our focus from that important email we are composing to answering the phone, clicking on a new email ‘just to check’, or skipping over to social media may actually take a lot longer than we realize.

The loss of focus in the mental shifting of gears actually takes up a lot of our time and makes us really inefficient – he suggests we are losing a whopping 28% of our work day thanks to multi-tasking, which he calls ‘switch-tasking’.

It seems that instead of technology becoming our servant, we have become a servant to technology. Would you appreciate a meeting with your accountant if he or she spent the whole time checking their phone? Your goal, says Crenshaw, should be to be present with your client (or your colleague, or your family) and not scattered all over the place.

In an excellent article in the National Post last month on the drawbacks of technology (hmm … are we seeing a pattern here?), Richard Whittall writes, “We wouldn’t expect a surgeon, a lab researcher or firefighter to stop what they’re doing and check their email every five minutes.” There’s a thought.

As an independent travel advisor, how can you tame the multi-tasking beast and become more efficient? Here are three great tips:

1. Turn off your automatic email notification and check for new emails only when you have completed a task.

2. Set expectations with your voicemail and out-of-office alerts. Change it weekly (e.g. “It’s the week of October 9th and I’m in the office every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the exception of Wednesday, when I will be in meetings.”) Change it daily for even better communication of your availability.

3. Use the three email rule: when you are up to three emails on a topic and clearly progress/understanding is not happening, pick up the phone. You may be able to achieve, in a five minute chat, what 20 emails can’t (and build a better, more personal connection).

Time, as Crenshaw reminds us, is finite. I for one will be trying to tame technology a bit more to squeeze more productive hours out of my day.

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