Welcome to Change Your Mindset (formerly known as Improv Is No Joke) where it is all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. The way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant, will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while, growing their businesses.
S2E18 – Karl Ahlrichs | Multitasking is a Myth
We, as humans, are not wired to multitask – but we’re also addicted to it! So today, we’re going to learn about why multitasking doesn’t work and then some strategies we can use to be more productive. I thought this would be a perfect episode to end the year, as the accounting community’s busy season is lingering on the horizon.
We’re joined by third-time guest Karl Ahlrichs, a human capitalist consultant who knows a thing or two about how individuals and teams really get things done.
Why can’t we multitask?
You can think of multitasking as either the ability to perform multiple tasks at one time or switching back and forth from one thing to another – but neither is an effective way to do… well, just about anything.
If you think you can effectively perform multiple tasks at once, I’d like to present exhibit A: “If you’ve eaten at a quick service restaurant like Kentucky Fried Chicken, they will hand you a multitasking eating implement that is with a spoon and a fork – the spork. It fails at both tasks! It’s basically a spoon that can hurt you.”
And if you’re switching between tasks, that has its own costs. There is up to a 40% reduction in productivity from this, when compared to focusing on a task and completing it then turning to another task and completing it. Decision fatigue also sets in, as Karl calls it, and you become less effective as you think.
For example, imagine you’re balancing a spreadsheet and writing a document. If you were to split your brain power between those two, it is not a simple 50/50 split. There is a loss of time to task switching, and every flip takes about 20% of the brain’s total processing power, leaving 80% for the task at hand, not 100%. So, instead of a 50/50 split, it’s a 40/40 split with 20% wasted.
But this isn’t just lowering your productivity. It basically lowers your IQ by about 15 points – the equivalent of staying up all night – and it lowers brain density in areas of the cortex that are responsible for empathy, cognitive, and emotional control.
“So, over time, if you do a bunch of multitasking that is paying off in these short-term ding ding dings, it makes you less cognitive and have poorer emotional control.”
Still don’t believe us? Try it for yourself!
Karl walks us through a simple exercise to demonstrate the impact of multitasking and task switching:
- Take out a sheet of paper, a writing implement, and something to time yourself with.
- Write “A B C D E F G H I” on one line and then, underneath it, write “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.” Time yourself.
- Now do it again, but don’t write the two lines sequentially. Instead, alternate between letters and numbers (A, 1, B, 2, and so on). Time yourself.
How long did it take you? The first time it took me 11 seconds, but the second time it took me 15 (and I might have messed up once).
How to Put an End to Multitasking
The overall process is pretty simple: identify the tasks at hand, identify and focus on the workflow process that you want to use, decide what needs your full attention, triage, prioritize, reduce distractions, and then just pay attention to one thing at a time.
To make this easier on yourself, do less! Delegate, hand things off to colleagues, or hand things off to technology. Remove the stuff that someone else can do from your plate “so that your precious brain power can be used for the good stuff, for the creative moments.”
If you need some help creating a more effective workflow, Karl suggests trying out the Kanban method. It’s pretty simple: create a to-do list, a doing list, and a complete list on a whiteboard (or something similar), then write all of your tasks onto sticky notes. There shouldn’t be more than a couple things in your “doing” list at any given time, and writing them all out will both help you prioritize and figure out what can be delegated.
If you want to learn more about Kanban, head over to www.personalkanban.com.
Another thing that makes a big difference is aerobic exercise. “Overall physical fitness appears to improve the outcome of all tasks, and it improves cognition.”
I hope that gives you some ideas for taking on tax season. If you are looking for some more ideas, feel free to reach out to Karl or myself.
- Learn more about Karl at http://www.expertspeaks.com/
- Connect with Karl: Twitter | LinkedIn
- Learn about Kanban: www.personalkanban.com
Change Your Mindset is produced by Podcast Masters
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