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Meetings & Multitasking Can Kill You And Your Kids

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Managers vs. Makers

Paul Graham, notable entrepreneur and founder of Y-Combinator, has a must-read essay on why meetings make it impossible for creatives, like engineers, programmers, and writers to be productive.  He attributes this to the Manager’s Schedule versus the Maker’s Schedule.

Managers tend to schedule their day in hour blocks because their job requires them to monitor tasks other people are doing.  Makers, however, NEED to schedule long blocks so that the time it takes to delve into a complex problem doesn’t consume the single hour available.

Meetings Are Evil

37signals Blog, Signal vs. Noise has another article more specifically addressing why meetings are useless based on a research study from the University of Minnesota.  37signals is notorious for speaking up against the evil of meetings.  They make a great suggestion if you were forced into an unproductive meeting.

If its not your call to make, be sure to summarize the result of the meeting and inform the participants of the cost of reaching that result. Was it really worth to spend 2 hours x $100/hour x 5 people = $1,000 whether or not to buy a new printer?

Multitasking Damages Your Focus

A Wired Magazine article discusses tests performed by Stanford scientists that suggest frequent multitaskers experience decreased cognitive ability even when not actively multitasking–having trouble ignoring irrelevant information, organizing their working memory, and switching between multiple tasks.  This suggests that multitasking is actually increasingly bad for you, although the article notes that this study proves only correlation and not causation.

Your Serial Processor (Your Brain) Can’t Actually Multitask

Dave Crenshaw, a time-management expert, calls multitasking, switch-tasking in The Myth of Multitasking.  Your brain tricks you into thinking you are multitasking by switching very quickly between tasks.  He argues that this switching makes it difficult for your brain to focus effectively on any individual task.  Although it seems impressive that you are juggling so much, no single task will be done well.

Other Resources

  1. An interesting game to test your multitasking ability.
  2. 37signals makes the best productivity tools I’ve ever used or reviewed.  Used properly, these can help you avoid meetings and multitasking.
  3. Thanks to The Chive for the picture!

What tips, tricks, or websites do you use to duck meetings and avoid multitasking?

Category: Efficiency, Industrial B2B Sales, Interesting Stuff

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4 Responses

  1. [...] more serious post on Multitasking and Meetings delves into a bit of the science behind these evils.  After all, phone calls are just meetings in [...]

  2. Anonymous says:

    Depends entirely on what you’re multitasking. When walking and talking you’re actually engaged in (at least) 3 different activities. You must recognize where you’re going, you must instruct your body to move there, and you must talk or consider the other person’s perspective.

    These are 3 different parts of your central nervous system working, the visual cortex, the motor cortex (and spinal cord as walking is largely reflexive), and the language center (as well as cerebral cortex). So long as the parts of your brain that your using are different, multitasking is easy.

    It’s when you’re trying to use the same part for different tasks that it becomes difficult. Try listening to a podcast and looking at pictures in an image search engine or navigating google earth, personally I find these tasks to be rather easy to multitask. But trying to read a webpage and listen to the same podcast nears impossible.

    We’re actually incredibly good multitaskers, those who weren’t got eaten.

  3. Great comment. You’ve provided a simple way for people to make distinctions between things that can be done at the same time. I’m going to test out some of these functions. Might warrant a new post. Thanks!

  4. The computer and the Internet can have that big trap –> because it has the ability to open up different applications/web pages/etc. at once — if you’re not that focus on what you want to accomplish — you’ll find yourself at the end of the day –exhausted and things seems to pile up that needs doing.

    My lesson keep on making things simple — and focus.

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