The task-switching overhead associated with the many activities we are all asked to do reduces our effectiveness significantly. Excessive multitasking introduces communication and thought process inefficiencies that reduce individual productivity. I once heard a manager say that someone on his team had spent an average of eight hours per week on a particular activity, so she could do five of them at once. In reality, she’ll be lucky if she can handle three such tasks. Some people multitask more efficiently than others. If some of your team members thrash when working on too many tasks at once, set clear priorities and help them succeed by focusing on just one or two objectives at a time.
Adapted from “Practical Project Initiation: A Handbook with Tools” (Microsoft Press, 2007). A condensed version of this paper was published in Software Development magazine.
Karl Wiegers, Ph.D., is Principal Consultant with Process Impact, a software process consulting and education company in Portland, Oregon. Karl’s most recent book is “Practical Project Initiation: A Handbook with Tools.” Karl is also the author of four other books and 170 articles. Karl is a frequent speaker at software conferences and professional society meetings. You can reach Karl through www.projectinitiation.com or www.processimpact.com.