Why Multitasking is Bad for Your Small Tourism Business

by Joanne Steele on February 19, 2010

executive toilet for multitaskingI have been researching multitasking for weeks with the idea that I would share ideas for how to get better at it.

I know that you are probably either a small tourism business or a rural chamber of commerce with responsibility for every aspect of your business, so to keep up with everything you’re multitasking like mad.

What I have learned is that there is no way to get around our neurology and get better at multitasking. The best way to help your business and accomplish more is to STOP MULTITASKING!

Here’s what the research says about Multitasking:

Our brains are uniquely equipped to allow us to hold more than one task at a time and switch back and forth between them. Researchers call this branching. But branching comes at a cost of about 20% to 30% of our efficiency.

One study showed that “workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” (The Myth of Multitasking)

The costs of multitasking are both emotional and physical. Negative consequences include physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, stomachaches and headaches.

It also causes that nagging feeling that something else besides what we’re doing demands our attention. That’s our branching brains reminding us of an important unfinished task. Because we tend to mentally label everything as equally important, our neurology keeps bleeding signals into our present focus, dragging our attention away from what we’re trying to accomplish.

So what do we do when we’re a rural tourism business or small town chamber of commerce director with constant demands on our time and attention?

1. Use prioritized list making to data dump all the things that demand our attention. Our brains love lists. According to the research I read, it helps to control that tendency of our brains to disrupt us with those nagging reminders that there are other important things we’re ignoring.

2. Turn off nagging distracters like radio, television and e-mail reminders. Learn to close your door and be unavailable when working on a project. Then make yourself available, answering email and phone messages and intentionally communicating with partners, family, and employees.

3. If you have employees, value their time as much as you want them to value yours. Have the same company policy about multitasking that you have about drugs.

4. Remember that it’s a myth that we can accomplish more by multitasking. Hundreds of years ago Lord Chesterfield said, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”

Having trouble creating prioritized lists? Here’s a previous time management post on the subject:

A To Do List Technique for Small Tourism Business Owners

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