Multitasking has the same effect on your productivity that drinking too much has on your wittiness at a party. You think it’s increasing, but it’s actually decreasing. In both cases, people seem happily unaware of this fact.
By now, you must’ve heard that multitasking is a boondoggle. It doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, it makes you less productive. Just look online for studies galore showing this, going back more than ten years.
I don’t want to harangue you about why it’s a bad thing to do. At least, not in the traditional productivity ways. This is the real reason you shouldn’t do it: it’s really bad for your relationships with people.
People can tell when you’re not listening to them. And they don’t like it.
I get compliments all the time on my listening skills. When people come up with something specific about me that they like, it’s usually that I’m a good listener. That’s delightful, since it’s a big part of my work.
Some things that make me a good listener:
- I am not thinking about something else when I listen
- I am not doing something else when I listen
- I am not planning what I’m going to say next when I listen.
Shall I be more specific? I’m not looking at email, reading text messages, checking voicemail, tweeting, Facebooking, watching TV, having a simultaneous conversation with someone else, planning my weekend, doing a craft project or shopping on eBay.
Here’s a test. How many times have you misunderstood or not heard something, which then caused delays, mistakes, glitches and other time consuming problems?
That pretty much ate up any time you might have saved by multitasking.
When I give my full attention to the person who’s speaking, I’m also giving them other things. Respect, attention, compassion, support and understanding. Everyone deserves those things. People crave those things too.
Truly listening to someone is a gift that’s deeply appreciated.
Your relationships with colleagues, employees, clients, family and friends will all improve when you stop doing nine million things at once and start really listening.
I know it can be hard to resist distractions to listening well. How do you do it?