The woes of multi tasking in project management

Filed under Lessons Learned | Posted by PMStudent

You know those times when you forget what you are supposed to be doing because people keep dropping in on your unexpectedly and various pieces of technology keep beeping at you ceaselessly throughout the day?? Not to mention the pens, post-it notes, and ornery chickens flying around your office?

Oh.? Maybe it’s just me.

The relevancy of multi tasking to project managers has never been more so.? Now we have additional online services and mobile devices to deal with.? What I wrote about back in January 2007 about Multi-tasking, Covey, and TOC is even more applicable now. Your project schedule should drive priorities, not a false sense of urgency in adhoc daily tasks.

photo via Flickr by Mike Licht,

photo via Flickr by Mike Licht,

Raven blogged about this yesterday and embedded a video, the same one I’m embedding below. (If you don’t know about Raven’s Brain, you NEED to check it out. It’s kind of noodley and gooey, but well worth it!)

Weapons of Mass Distraction

As project managers, I feel it’s our duty to protect our staff from bad multi tasking.

Don’t expect your project team to be waiting for your email or IM and respond immediately.? They have work to do.? Encourage them and everyone else to only check email a few times a day, on a scheduled basis.? Send them instructions to turn off the “auto-notification” sound/box whenever they receive a new email.? For goodness sake, let them focus on their work!? This goes for remote staff too!

Don’t wander around and interrupt people.? I work with people who have no regard for this whatsoever.? They’ll assume they can interrupt a discussion or pull someone off a focused task.? It’s arrogant, annoying and a time waste because people have to switch gears.? If you need to talk with someone, ask their permission before launching into a conversation.? If I walk over and someone is in a discussion, I keep walking unless what I have is truly urgent and important.? If they are engrossed in a project task, I’ll say something like “Hey John, could you stop by when you get to a good stopping point?? No rush.” if I need to speak with them.? This way they only have a minor interruption and can get re-focused rather quickly.

Lead focused and short project meetings.? If everyone is not fully engaged in the meeting, then you are losing most of the value for them being there.? Keep the pace fast and focused, and make sure only the right people are invited.? If someone is distracting themselves, help them get engaged in the meeting by asking them direct questions about the topic at hand.? Even better, as a part of your project meeting ground rules, outlaw all communication methods (IM, email, Twitter, texting, etc.) besides being engaged in the meeting.

Check out the video below, it’s funny because it’s mostly true!