Whether you’re a small business owner, individual, or an entire company, one of your biggest enemies may be multi-tasking. I’m not talking about the fire hydrant you took out last week while driving and trying to check your email and talking on your cell phone’85that’s just insanity. What I’m talking about is the much simpler idea of focus–of taking one idea and moving it forward, intentionally, wholeheartedly, and very consciously at the expense of all others–and it’s exact opposite, multi-tasking.
To get an idea of just how big of a problem this is for you or your company, count how many projects you’re working on right now. Add them up’85 how many did you get? 5, 10, 20, 50? Usually I range anywhere from 5 to 15 individually, and as a company I would say we’re usually anywhere from 100 to 250.
So why is it a problem? Well, there are really two issues. One is the quantitative fact that it makes every single project take longer. The second, is that it allows people to hide failure, roadblocks and missed deadlines.
Steve Jobs Felt Your Pain
Issue #1: Every project takes longer
So here’s what it looks like if you focus on one project at a time:
Here’s what it looks like if you “multi-task” and try to do it all at once.
The more you switch back and forth, the worse the numbers: more and more switching time and the first two tasks finish later and later. This isn’t to say you lock yourself in a room (I’ll leave whether it’s padded up to you), crush your cellphone, and maniacally focus on one task… that’s unreasonable. All we’re getting at is there is a cost to switching back and forth between projects in terms of both wasted time and later finish dates.
Issue #2: It allows people to hide failure, roadblocks and missed deadlines
If you only have one project, then when you run into issues with that one project you have no choice but to deal with the issues. On the other hand, if you have two projects, then you can just move to the second project. That’s great news for efficiency because now there’s no “down time,” but increase the number of projects to 3, 4, 5’85and I think you see the problem.
So why do we let this happen? It’s easy. Rather than do the hard work of actually fixing roadblocks and completing projects, you can just start another! Eventually, you have so many projects being “worked on” that it’s hard to keep track of what is stalled, what is moving smoothly, what is on time and what is late. Great if you’re someone looking for the path of least resistance, but a nightmare if you are an individual with a to do list or a company trying to meet deadlines!
The bottom line is that it takes discipline and focus to pick one project and see it through to the end.
What about you or your company? How many projects do you have going at once? Let us know below!