the downside of multi-tasking

Many agree that Leonardo da Vinci is the perfect example of “the Renaissance man”—a person with talents embracing many subjects, from painting and sculpture to architecture, science, mechanics, and war. But he’s also known by another lesser-known title: “the great unfinisher.” At his death, in 1519, Leonardo left many of his greatest paintings incomplete – and he never actually built any of the inventions that filled his journals.

Leonardo’s situation highlights one of the biggest risks of multi-tasking: Because no single task ever receives full attention, the chances are greater that many will be left incomplete. That hasn’t gotten in the way of Leonardo’s reputation as a genius, but the rest of us aren’t so lucky.  The fact is, multi-tasking isn’t a time-saver. Multi-tasking reduces productivity and leads to mistakes and underperformance.   

Teams tend to drift and miss key milestones and metrics when they spread themselves too thin. Limit tasks in order to keep on track. Reject a multi-tasking approach and opt for tackling each task one at a time. When team members concentrate on just a single task, they finish sooner and produce information that usually helps with other tasks in the iteration.   

When devoting energies to finishing a single task, you can give results to stakeholders on day one. That builds their confidence in your team’s abilities and often quickens the team’s pace. It will more than likely allow you to complete your project sooner than projected.  

Key Takeaways  

  • Break down your team’s iteration into tasks that can be completed one at a time 
  • Don’t take on another task until the current one is done (unless you’re waiting for others) 
  • Set expectations and communicate that a new task won’t start until the current one is finished 
  • Remember that multi-tasking is distracting and affects your ability to correctly understand your team’s level of productivity 
The Downside of Multi-Tasking

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