Friday, April 10, 2009

You cannot multi-task

One common issue among my clients in different industries is the fact that they manage multiple responsabilities and tasks in a multi-task fashion driven by interruptions.
Multi-tasking is a productivity killer. I has been demonstrated that when you are interrupted, the same task takes up to four times longer to be completed compared to the same taks with no interruptions.

The next immediate effect is the amount of errors introduced when you´re interrupted, being 3-4 times more when switching tasks and when you´re managing numbers and 4+ times errors when you manage words.

While keeping a cellular phone conversation in the car is worse than driving drunk (based on statistics), the same occurs in the office. To be on-line, chat enabled, trying to get things done but switching contexts contantly is a very bad idea.

Boosting productivity

Applying the simple agile principle of prioritization scrum teams assigned to multiple projects and driven by interruptions can deal with this. By defining in the planning day the context and the allowed switch for the day, the team can limit the interruptions and boost the ideal hours of productivity.

Using the context concept from David Allen´s GTD productivty system, team members can distribute their days like:

@Project B (Morning)

@Project C (Afternoon)

@Project A (COB)

Of course this requires the management commitment and a do-not-disturb policy across the organization. Managers can be interrupted, but team members should be able to manage their time in order to boost productivity.

You cannot multi-task. By dividing the day in smaller chunks with less interruptions your productivity as team member is going to be increased dramatically and you are not going to get stuck in the middle of non-productivity.

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