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It doesn’t seem so long ago that the ability to multitask was highly regarded. I think most job ads and resumes still list it as a key skill, but now there’s a push in business to get people to stop multitasking and focus. Multitasking and focusing – two buzz words juxtaposed and yet diametrically opposed.

How do we focus if we’re always multitasking? After years of practice, I’ve learned to embrace both. So after attending a time management class today, I was dismayed to hear once again about the tragic death of multitasking. Described here are the facilitator’s suggestions to manage distractions and why I have an issue with them.

Email: Turn off alerts and schedule time to read emails.

No, don’t do it! If the people I am emailing take this advice, the response time will slow down mercilessly. While my co-workers are reducing their distractions, I’m waiting for an answer and that hinders my ability to get something done.

Disorganization: Use a weekly organizer.

I love organization, but I respect the fact that not everyone does. Some people thrive in crisis mode. Try to get those people to use a weekly organizer and you’ll quell their spirit. Besides, with the time it takes them to prepare a weekly organizer, they could be reading my emails.

Instant messaging: Limit use.

Great, now these people who are not reading my emails will not even be available for a chat. The suggestion was to set specific times for having your availability turned on. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is when you have a quick question that might make the difference between getting something off your desk or not, and your point person has their IM set to “do not disturb”?

Phone calls: Turn off phones during peak work hours.

Are you kidding me? My co-workers’ peak hours are the same as mine. Am I supposed to obtain information via osmosis?

Internet: Turn off social media when you’re not using it.

Is there such a thing?

Close the door and gesture that you’re busy if someone knocks.

headless man cartoon with the word

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Well, that’s just rude. Maybe I’m busy too and can’t move my work along until I get some questions answered.


What would that accomplish – overwhelming someone else with work so you can get yours done?

Sleep: Get lots of rest.

business people asleep in conference room

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Drink lots of water.

In that case, I’ll be in the bathroom all day and that would be very distracting.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s woman thing having juggled babies, a job and a household for so many years, but I find multitasking stimulating and relish the feeling of accomplishing many things at once. If I check emails right away, I can delete, reply, or file them away and task myself to act on them later. This is so much more efficient than playing catch-up and having people clog my inbox with duplicates to get a response. If someone sends me an IM, I prefer to answer their question quickly, so we can both move on. I may get annoyed at interruptions when I’m hyper-focused, but often return to my work with a new approach or a fresh pair of eyes that picks up typos unnoticed when I was working intensely.

But that’s just me – what about you?