In the fast-paced, high-tech lives of many business owners multitasking has become an art form, something to be proud of and maybe even brag about. But be careful, it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Business owners do have a lot on their hands: juggling bookkeeping, social media, website updates, customer service, fulfilling orders, stocking inventory, opening and closing the store, tending to employees, etc. And while accomplishing a number of things in the same moment may feel satisfying and buy time in the short run, in the long run it may backfire.
Have you ever tried to carry too many grocery bags from the car into the house so you didn’t have to make more than one trip — only to drop half the bags and make a mess before you were able to get them on the kitchen counter? The same thing goes for trying to do too much in business.
Writing that e-newsletter while talking to a customer on the phone may look like this: part of your conversation with your customer ends up in your newsletter and because you didn’t have time (or didn’t take the time) to have someone proofread it, you sent it out as is.
Trying to update your QuickBooks while posting things to your business’ Facebook page may look like this: You end up posting your profit for the last month and that client whose account is past due on Facebook.
Ultimately, you may end up disappointing a customer, embarrassing yourself, and getting less done than you would have if you’d just slowed down and done one thing at a time. In fact, a Harvard Business Review blog post, “How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking,” says that multitasking leads to as much as a 40 percent drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10 percent drop in IQ.
So, as a business owner, what can you do to reduce multitasking and still get everything done?
Slow Down: Believe it or not, you are more efficient and effective when you aren’t rushing from one thing to the next.
Prioritize: Instead of trying to get everything done at once, determine what is most important. What needs to happen first and what can wait?
Turn off your cell phone: Ok, not forever, just for the hour or so you need to focus on an important project. Consider it an experiment; see how much more quickly you get that project done without all the interruptions.
Schedule down time: Everyday, schedule even five minutes of time where you can close your eyes, breathe, and let all the work you have to get done wait on you, wait on what’s most important, retaining your sanity and reducing stress.
Ask for help: Business owners are known to try to do too much, to try and do it all themselves. If you aren’t in a position to hire employees, consider temporary help, a virtual assistant, or even asking your teenager to stuff envelopes for you. You may be self-employed but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone.
Joanne Scharer is a business adviser at the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and owner of All Writing Matters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org