All posts tagged: multitasking

Squirrel Moments

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My black lab, Kingsley, is like many of his breed in that he has Squirrel Moments. He’ll be doing one thing, and then a squirrel runs across the top of the fence. Seeing this out of the corner of his eye, Kingsley runs for all he is worth, convinced that this he’ll actually catch the critter. But, alas, the squirrel is always faster and craftier, and Kingsley is left to glare and bark his fiercest of barks. Once the squirrel is out of sight, Kingsley rarely returns to what he was doing before, no matter how interesting it may have been. The distraction, the Squirrel Moment, disrupted his memory and momentum.

While humans are much, much smarter than my goofy, yet lovable lab, we too have our Squirrel Moments. Even when we’re engaged in the most important of projects or tasks, something else, our “squirrels,” grabs our attention. It could be a call that would have been better to have let go to voicemail, the co-worker whose interruption could have waited, or that email chime or alert that ends up being a message that was much less important than the task at hand. Once we lose focus, we lose momentum. Work takes longer, and quality often suffers.

Multitasking is a myth, as we are incapable of effectively doing more than one thing at a time. Some may dismiss this, but take a moment to observe someone who claims to be multitasking. Watch long enough, and you’ll see that the individual may move from one thing to another every few seconds, but at no point in time is he or she really effectively doing multiple things at once.

The solution for Squirrel Moments simply requires better habits, including:

  • Singletasking, a dedicated focus on the task at hand.
  • Maintaining boundaries to minimize distractions that are almost always less important than the task at hand.
  • Avoiding drive-by leadership and, instead, meeting with employees once or twice daily to disseminate important information.

Squirrels are referred to as pests for a reason. Sure they’re cute, but they can be awfully destructive, burrowing into places where they cause distraction and even harm. Better that we leave the squirrels to the Kingsley’s of the world so we can stay focused on the real work that brings home his dinner.

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Scott WintripSquirrel Moments
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WUI (Working Under the Influence)

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Like a drunk on a bender, the driver in the truck ahead of me this morning was swerving as he buried his head in his smartphone. It was a classic case study in the dangers of distraction and why this is often compared to driving while intoxicated. In it’s own way, the allure of the words and pictures on those touchscreens have an intoxicating effect, drawing people in and diverting attention from navigating a ton of metal, plastic, and glass.

The roadways are not the only place where people are under the influence. From the C-Suite to middle management to cube farms across the globe, millions of workers are drunk by multitasking as they distractedly attempt to complete a multitude of things at the same time. Instead of giving their full attention to the customer, project, or issue at hand, these individuals often think they are highly adept at doing multiple things at once but are no better than the texter in front of me this morning. The customer is only partially served, the work on the project is good but could be better, and the issue to be resolved is often incompletely addressed.

Drivers of vehicles must single-task in order to keep those around them safe and the same goes for businesspeople at all levels. Multitasking is highly overrated, especially when working on critical business functions, like serving your customers. Most of you reading this would never interact with a client or work on an important project after downing a few cocktails. The same policy should apply to taking on other tasks when the task at hand is important to the success of your organization.

Scott WintripWUI (Working Under the Influence)
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