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Multitasking Could Be Slowing You Down

I’ll be the first to highlight the many ways technology helps us accomplish more things quickly. But have you ever found yourself juggling an IM chat with one colleague and a phone conversation with another, while also searching for a document on your laptop and trying to finish your lunch?  If so, you’re not alone.

Technology has definitely given us ways to be more productive, but when it comes to communicating with others, multitasking can result in doing colleagues, customers and clients a disservice by giving them only a fraction of the attention they deserve. Some studies suggest that multitasking actually hampers productivity since it takes our brains extra time to transition between tasks.

While there will always be instances where we must multitask, here are some situations in which I am personally making an effort to focus on the task at hand:

Meetings – Since many people come to the conference room with laptops and mobile devices in tow, the temptation to multitask during meetings is great. The next time you’re in a meeting, experiment with focusing only on the meeting itself. Also, evaluate if bringing your laptop to the meeting is even necessary. If it’s not, see if you and your colleagues can agree to a “device-free” meeting. Maybe the meeting will end early as a result! And even if it doesn’t, chances are you’ll get more out of the meeting than you expect and will be better able to recall the important details discussed.

Writing projects – When working on a document or e-mail, it’s easy to get sidetracked, especially if it’s a project you’ve been putting off for a while. If you regularly use Microsoft Lync or another messaging service, switch your status to “Do Not Disturb,” close your inbox and Internet browser, and see how much more you get done. Even if you attempt this for only 30 minutes, you might be surprised at the difference in the quality of your work and the speed at which you accomplish your tasks.

Phone conversations or audio conferences – It’s easy to grow accustomed to multitasking while on the phone or participating in an audio conference. After all, no one can see if you are scrolling through yesterday’s e-mails or perusing the news on the Internet. However, few things are more embarrassing than missing an integral part of a conversation, especially when your only excuse is that you got preoccupied with the latest pictures of your family members on Facebook. Make a promise to yourself to tune into the conversation at hand and you’ll likely see your relationships with colleagues and clients improve as a result.

Are there other times when you think multitasking negatively impacts your work? Or, are there times when multitasking actually helps you? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Cindy BatesVice President, Microsoft SMB
Cindy Bates is Vice President of US Small, Medium Business and Distribution at Microsoft, responsible for the company’s end-to-end SMB sales and marketing efforts including SMB strategy, business development, regional field sales and national distribution sales, channel and customer marketing. | @cindy_bates | More from Cindy

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