Can Leaders Be Effective While Multitasking?

By |Published On: April 25, 2011|

A colleague recently forwarded an article to me from the New York Times titled, “Message to Executives: Stop Multitasking”. I read the article with interest as I consider myself a multitasker.

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page here – to me multitasking is having many active projects or activities going on at the same time. (The proverbial “having many balls in the air at once”) In fact, Webster defines multitasking as “the performance of multiple tasks at one time”.

The Times article referenced a McKinsey Quarterly study which concludes multitasking hurts productivity, reduces creativity and even makes people unhappy. The conclusion of the study is that leaders should Focus, Filter and Forget.

Focus on doing one thing at a time.

Filter information to make better decisions.

Forget by taking time to do non business related activities.

I think these conclusions are great but the premise is wrong. No human being can actually do multiple tasks at one time. However, all leaders have multiple active projects or tasks at one time. So how does a leader effectively complete all these projects and tasks?

By focusing, filtering and forgetting.

Are you a multitasker? How do you stay effective?

One Comment

  1. Bart Bettiga April 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    This is probably the single biggest issue I face as an Association Executive. I think it is unrealistic to not have many tasks going on simultaneously. As a leader, it is important that we properly handle this so that individuals assisting you in completing the tasks are motivated and properly equipped to do so. I probably work harder at this than anything, because it is in my nature to try to be all things to all people. Every day, I take fifteen minutes to look through these tasks and determine the order of the day that makes sense. I have improved at this over the years by reading posts like this one and articles from experts who have mastered this far better than I.

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