Is Multi-Tasking Really That Good for Your Small Business?

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As small business owners, we are forced to wear many hats in our growing organizations – often, we find ourselves wearing many of them at the same time.

While it certainly gives us the sense of productivity, I wonder what toll it takes on us and our business relationships.  Personally, I am not a good multi-tasker; although I would have told you otherwise throughout most of my business life.  Becoming a blogger has opened my eyes to all of the dropped balls that I never saw while struggling to maintain my juggling act.

I came across this article, Task Master: Is doing it all, all at the same time, really the best way? (originally published in Today’s Christian Woman in 2005), and it started me thinking about whether all of this multi-tasking is really good for my small business. 

Do I Really Have to do 3 Things at Once to Feel Productive?

I love this question that she asks.  It gets to the heart of the matter very quickly.  If I were only doing one thing at a time, but doing it very well, would I feel as productive?

Like the author, I have to admit that unless I am doing multiple things at the same time I do not feel productive.  I can easily see myself in her recounting one multi-tasking event from her life.

Or I’ll take a stack of correspondence into our family room and tune in a movie I’ve been eager to see. Distracted by the film, I have to read each letter twice, not really connecting with the dear person who’s written to me, nor fully involved with the story on the screen. When a family member joins me and starts to chat, I catch myself scribbling words that make little sense, trying to follow the movie out of the corner of my eye and only half-listening, half-nodding to whatever my loved one is saying.

Somewhere along the way, we have accepted the premise that just because the technology makes it possible that it is something we should do.  Have we focused so much on being productive that we’ve forgotten about being effective?

Is Your Productivity Killing Your Relationships?

I often hear from small business owners who complain about the loss of loyalty from their workforce and their customers.  Let’s face it.  Building strong, long-lasting relationships takes a lot of time and effort.

They are not something that naturally flourish as a result of multi-tasking.  All too often, they are the balls that have dropped to the floor during your juggling act.  If you’re like me, it may take you a while to notice them laying there on the ground.

Which is why blogging has made me realize that I am not an effective multi-tasker.  Blogging is very much about developing that relationship with your readers.  I’ve been so busy lately trying to be productive, that this blog became one of those balls on the ground.

What Balls Have Fallen to the Ground for You?

It’s been eye-opening to see something that I have been passionate about growing has so easily been lost in the flurry of productivity.  When the author talks about her multi-tasking experience above, did you notice that while she was getting many things done at once that none were being done very well?

How are your relationships with your employees?  with your customers?  with your family?  The moments in life, in business, in relationships that seem to have the most impact are not those moments when we are trying to do many things at once.

Maybe it’s time to start being less productive and more effective?

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Brad's Big Feet Marketing helps people on a limited budget enlarge their online footprint using blogging & social media. His other blog, Marketplace Christianity, examines faith's role in how we earn and spend money.

Brad has written 95 awesome articles for us at Bradley A Harmon

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason March 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Great insights Brad. It all goes back to relationships doesn't it? I think Covey gets it right when he says that you can be efficient with things, but not with people. It's when we treat people as things that we get into trouble. Keep up the good work.
My recent post Big Fat Problems with Christianity: “All Christians are Hypocrites!”

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Brad Harmon March 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Isn't that the truth? Take the typical church, for example. When a member has a death in the family we have become so efficient with organizing for flower deliveries, cards, a million covered dishes (chicken spaghetti seems to be popular now). We swoop in like FedEx with our packages and our well wishes and then we're gone. Contrast that with Job's friends dropping everything and sitting with him for days. I'm not trying to criticize those good deeds because I think they are certainly appreciated, but I think it illustrates your point. Great comment.

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MikeHolmes March 10, 2010 at 2:00 am

Brad!!!

I'm glad you're back! Where have you been?

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Brad Harmon March 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I think I might have been hit on the head by some of those balls I've dropped. ;) There have been some other areas that have called for more attention at the moment. I'm not gone, but I do need to get back to this blog. Thanks for missing me.

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dana March 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

It may not an experience business but i think i experience that i more productive when do single task than do multi-tasking task.
My recent post 4 Things That Slow Down My Blogging and The Solutions

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Brad Harmon March 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm

There are certainly areas where multi-tasking can help us as small business entrepreneurs, but I think we can take it too far sometimes and also forget that relationships are the foundation of any business and that they do not easily lend themselves to multi-tasking.

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Rita_Cartwright March 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Like you, Brad, I've dropped the ball on writing articles, posting to my blog, and even coming here to your blog to read your interesting, informative posts.

The Task Master article was a good read. I like how she used Jesus as an illustration.

As a Virtual Assistant, I find myself needing a Virtual Assistant. We come to the aide of those trying to multi-task. Unfortunately, we tend to put our family, relationships, etc. on the back burner while trying to be productive.

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Brad Harmon March 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm

LOL … I am right there with you. It was a great article. I think we should look to the way Jesus cultivated relationships more often as entrepreneurs and bring those skills into our workplace.

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Paula April 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I think that multi-tasking can be a good or bad thing. It just depends on how you do it. I know that sometimes I tend to go about multi-tasking in the wrong way. For me it means that I don't focus on the one task as well as I could. This often happens with even simple things like opening up multiple tabs in Internet Explorer for instance. I can't just open up one and wait for the screen to load. I will have opened up 3 or4 and then have multiple screens that I will be looking at.
My recent post Help! I Can’t Think of Anything to Write About – Ideas for Blog Posts

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Brad Harmon July 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I’m glad my computer has a great processor, video card, and tons of memory because I am guilty of having 8+ tabs open on Firefox at any given time. You make a good point about this making it hard to focus. I may need to rethink my browser habits.
Brad Harmon´s last [type] ..Why a Closed-on-Sunday Policy is Good Business

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chuck@cover letters June 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

There is a fine line here. I think you should reserve certain things to be multi-task “eligible”, and there are other things that require your undivided attention.

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Brad Harmon July 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Valid point. I think we should avoid multi-tasking those items which have relationship implications. I have actually been surprised at how much more productive I’ve been even with mundane tasks when I focus on them and knock them out rather than multi-task them. I think we all have our own levels at which we can function well while multi-tasking. I’ve just found mine to be much lower than I would have though.

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