A Better Way To Work TimeBack Management

About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

Published in The New York Enterprise Report, March 7, 2006

Originally published in The New York Enterprise Report  | Download PDF 

Picture your standard morning at the office: you’re checking a complicated formula in a spreadsheet.  Ring!  You turn away from the spreadsheet and take the phone call.  When the call is over, you go back to the spreadsheet.  Ding!  MS Outlook just alerted you to a new email.  You toggle over to your email, read it, and dash off a short response.  Knock!  Your partner ducks in for a quick question.  You feel in control.  You’re multi-tasking, efficiently getting so much work done in so little time.  

You’re also wrong.  Multi-tasking doesn’t work.

As a knowledge worker, you simply cannot deploy all your mental acuity and creativity if you can’t focus on the task at hand.  All the interruptions of modern office life – email, Blackberries, pagers, voice mail, good old-fashioned knocks on the office door – destroy your ability to concentrate and focus.  

Today’s knowledge workers are interrupted on average every 11 minutes, and it takes them about 25 minutes to return to that task – if they return to it at all.  And of course, even when they return to that task, it takes them a few minutes to get back into what they were doing.  Add that up, and you’ve got a colossal waste of time.  A recent study by Basex revealed that 55% of workers surveyed said they open e-mail immediately or shortly after it arrives, no matter how busy they are.  Similarly, the White Collar Productivity Index by IBT-USA, a corporate efficiency training company, showed that workers lose 4.5 hours per week to interruptions.

So what can you do?  The answer is simple: batching.

Batching your work means doing similar tasks at one time.  For example, rather than reading each email as it comes in, schedule specific time during your day to check and answer emails.  Do the same with your voice mail and your outgoing phone calls.  You should also batch your interactions with people.  Don’t interrupt coworkers whenever you get an idea, but instead meet at regularly scheduled times.  Keep a folder for each key coworker where you can drop notes and reminders for your next meeting.  By respecting others' time and being mindful of their need to concentrate, they become more respectful of your time -- a virtuous circle that leads to improved efficiency.

By batching your work and reducing interruptions, you can more easily maintain your focus on the tasks that need your attention.  You’ll not only do your work better, you’ll do it faster as well.

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