Busy executives often pride themselves with their ability to multi-task, believing they are getting far more done than if they were simply completing one task at a time. Last week there was an interesting article by Paula Bilitz in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Click here) suggesting that Multitasking is just Switchtasking. In it she cites compelling Neurological evidence that the brain cannot effectively do two things at once. In fact, it is less efficient than doing one thing at a time, because switching costs result when people need to review what they have done before resuming work.
It is also just plain rude. As author Dave Crenshaw points out in his book The Myth of Multitasking: How Doing it All Gets Nothing Done, “Multitasking is a polite way of telling someone ‘I haven’t heard a word you’ve said.’”
One of the ground rules we use in our Vistage Executive Peer Advisory Meetings is something we call the “Airplane Rule”. During the meeting, all cell phones and email devices are switched off. We allow time for email and phone calls during breaks, but during the meeting time we want everybody to be fully present and engaged. I find our meetings are incredibly more productive than ones I frequently experienced in the corporate world. Try turning off your phone at your next meeting.