Bad Multitasking

One of the primary aims of continuous process improvement methodologies is to realize additional efficiencies in the way tasks are accomplished. By simplifying the focus of the process and breaking it down into its most basic components businesses can reduce the time and resources required to produce products or implement services. Oftentimes in business today, the virtues of multitasking are espoused as a necessity. Furthermore, the ability to multitask is required in many organizations. The problem with multitasking is that you have to handle a setup time for every task switch, leading to so called bad multitasking which meens a reduction in proficiency when attempting to accomplish tasks.

What's so bad about multitasking?
The Theory of Constraints simply states that at some point within a process you will encounter a limiting factor to your productivity. At that time, the constraint will have to be identified and dealt with to minimize its impact on the efficiency of your business processes. Bad multitasking provides an excellent backdrop to examine the Theory of Constraints. Most individuals function best, and most profitably, when they are able to focus on a single task at a time. The reason for this is that they are able to bring all of their mental faculties to bear on the challenge at hand. When multitasking occurs, the singular attention an individual is able to give to handling a situation is now divided with only a portion of their intellectual capabilities being used on each problem. When more than two tasks are introduced, the focus of the individual is further diluted.

How to prevent multitasking
So when you are looking to implement a continuous process improvement initiative: Let your team members always concentrate on a single task at once. Consider that you will get the best efficiency when you claim the complete the resolution of one task before moving to the next one. On the other side, give your team the ability to concentrate on a single task and do not put new work into ongoing jobs. Severall methodologies have mighty tools to confine multitasking: Kanban has the principle of limitting the work in progress, in the agile method Scrum you have the so called "Definition of Done" which uses an exact definition to decide when a task is really completed, and the Theory of Constraints uses buffers to prevent specially the constraint from multitasking.
My personal experiences
Every task change will cost yourself about 15 minutes of setup time in complex environments like development or engineering. If you are working on 2-3 projects simultaneously, your efficieny factor will shrink down to less than 50%. Don't allow this! Focus on less things and work on them really concentrated. Start a new job only if the last one is completely done. You will have a much higher efficiency at the end of the day.

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