As I have spoken to and provided training for top professionals and executives around the country, I have noticed how many people take a certain pride in their ability to multitask. To some it’s like and Olympic event to see how many things they can do at once. To me it’s more like those guys in the circus that run around trying to keep the plates spinning on the end of the poles. Eventually something’s going to break.

To me multitasking is reserved for eating popcorn while I watch a movie. Too often it takes our attention away from things that need our focus. Instead of giving one thing your full attention, your concentration gets divided among several things and the overall performance suffers. If you don’t think so just get behind someone that is driving while talking on the phone.

When you are planning, writing or doing other things that require your focused attention it is far more effective to avoid other distractions. Don’t try to do others things at the same time. Give the needed attention to each item individually. When you are on the phone focus on the caller, don’t search the internet or answer questions from others. Being in a rushed, flustered, or preoccupied state by trying to pay attention to too many things at once is not conducive to being productive. By focusing your attention on one thing at a time you will finish the task quicker and do a better job.

Another major problem with multitasking is that you are often not only dividing your attention among different projects, but you are often mixing things that are not very important with things that are critical and need your focused attention. When you try to answer phone calls, read emails and take questions from others while reviewing your companies profit/loss statements or planning your quarterly marketing campaign the quality of your work suffers and it’s the more important and complex tasks that reflect it.

To enhance your productivity and get the important things done first, remove the unnecessary distractions and focus. Turn off your email notice, you don’t need it flashing or announcing that “you have mail.” Most emails aren’t time sensitive so set a time or two during the day when you will answer emails and return calls. The internet is a valuable tool but also an enormous distraction. Make your home page something that will not distract you into reading unnecessary articles or surfing different areas of interest but not importance.

Finally don’t let the urgent take you away from the important. You don’t have to be accessible to everyone all the time. Create a schedule that gives you time during the day to be uninterrupted. Set up your office to be free of distractions while you are working. If appropriate have the receptionist hold your calls or turn off your phone for an hour or two each day while you focus on certain things. Maybe put on some soft music that blocks out other noises but still allows you to stay focused. (If you are singing along with the music you are not completely focused). Close your door when you don’t want to be disturbed so others are less likely to interrupt you. By adopting these practices you may find that you can accomplish more in a couple hours then you have been getting done in a day filled with constant distractions.