Multi-tasking is a Myth: Why it’s beneficial to put off certain tasks

A man is debunking the myth of multi-tasking by holding up a bunch of text messages.
No one has enough time to do everything they’re asked to do for work. Effective workers, learn how to say no to things they don’t want to do.

In one day no person is more rich than the other. We all have 86,400 seconds… no more, no less. 

No one has enough time to do everything they’re asked to do for work. Most people don’t have enough time to do all the things they want to do in their free time. 

Just like you can’t scale presales by hiring more people, you can’t scale productivity by working more hours. Not only is that not sustainable, having that kind of mindset can actually drive down productivity.   

The solution goes against what most people expect high performers to do. Effective workers, be they leaders or individual contributors, learn how to say no and put off those things they don’t want to do.  

Procrastination For Good

Time is a resource. It’s impossible to create more of it. The only thing we can do is manage how we use our time. Prioritization is probably the first word you think of when you think of time management. 

Rory Vaden wrote Procrastinating on Purpose and spoke about this concept in a 2015 Ted Talk titled, “How to Multiply Your Time.”  Rory says everything we know about time management is wrong, and it starts with how we view tasks based on the criteria of importance, urgency, and significance.  

Urgency is how soon something matters, importance is how much it matters, and significance is how long is it going to matter. Quite often, people grade tasks based on the first two definitions while completely ignoring the third. 

“That’s the significance calculation: you multiply time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow.” 

That time multiplication comes from saying no to tasks that don’t add significance to your work. Now, you can’t say, ”No” to everything at work – not unless you no longer want to have a job- so you have to find ways to remove tasks from your plate while still keeping up with your responsibilities.

I’ve found some tactics to help with this which involve eliminating, automating, delegating, and – if all else fails – procrastinating my tasks. 

Eliminate

We should audit tasks periodically to make sure they’re still helping us in a significant way. Think about the last recurring meeting you had. Did people actively participate? Did everyone show up, muted with cameras off and secretly play on their phones? Did people cancel at the last minute because there was nothing to talk about? If no one is gaining anything from that meeting, that’s an example of a task that should be eliminated. 

I actually just did this the other day with members of our revenue leadership team. We were looking to eliminate meetings that were redundant to free up time for more significant projects. As we went through the calendars, we realized that in the last 3 months, we’d only actually held this meeting 4 times and even then, we ended it early because there wasn’t much actual coordination happening. 

Eliminating tasks is the first activity in this exercise since it will get the low hanging fruit of tasks that keep you bogged down. There might not be that many tasks you can fully eliminate from your workload and that’s ok. That’s why we have a few more strategies for taking tasks off your plate.

Automate

Oftentimes, there are tasks that still need to be done,, but don’t merit a lot of our time or focus. For these types of tasks, see where you can automate. Technology has evolved to the point where automation is used for even mundane everyday things.

To give you a personal example, it used to be a hassle for me to pay my gas bill every month. The site I used to pay my gas bill was outdated and required me to reset my password every other month. And then occasionally the system wouldn’t even process my card!

Finally, I realized it was taking me roughly 25 minutes to pay my gas bill (not even including the time I’d get sucked into looking at my usage reports). The easy solution was to set the bill up on auto pay. It was one simple form of automation that saved me about 10 hours a year.

In the most recent SE Compensation and Workload Report, both SE Leaders and ICs said the most impactful task they could eliminate is repetitive demos. Think about all the different types of demos you deliver, and consider which ones you could record once and then send to prospects on demand. You’re not only removing repetitive tasks from your workload, but you reduce demo lag for customers as well by giving them access to the content they want most in their buyer’s journey.

Delegate

Sometimes, it’s possible to have someone else complete the task. It could be someone on your team takes the task over or something that you switch off periodically. This is probably the hardest to do of all the time saving methods simply because some responsibilities can’t be transferred.

In an interview, Jerry Seinfeld once talked about the reason he and the other writers decided it was time to end the wildly popular show “Seinfeld” even though by the last season he was making $1,000,000 per episode (in 20 years ago money). They decided to walk away because they were getting burnt out. 

The interviewer asked if they ever considered hiring a firm to write for them, and Seinfeld asked, “Is that firm funny?” The interviewer admitted they weren’t. Seinfeld responded that was why they couldn’t delegate the show writing.  

Some things are just hard. There is no automation or better way to do it. That’s one thing you’ll have to decide, but you do have one more option if this is a task that you just can’t delegate or automate.

Procrastinate

If you can’t use any of the other methods we’ve already discussed to remove a task from your schedule, you can always try to procrastinate. What I mean by this is if the task isn’t urgent and isn’t important, push it off for another day. 

After you’ve gone through all the other options and prioritizations, you may find that some tasks don’t need to happen right now. Things like emails that pop into your inbox but don’t need an immediate answer. Then you put everything back into the funnel again and see which of the tasks rise to the top. After a while, these tasks may increase in urgency and become a priority, but if they never do, they could become a candidate for elimination.

While this may be difficult to do with all tasks, there’s always something we can say no to today that will give us more time to get ahead for tomorrow. 

What to do with all that new Free Time

Now that you’ve removed any tasks that don’t contribute to your long term success, you can focus on the significant ones. These are the things you do today that will help you do less tomorrow. In the case of overworked  SEs, that could be developing deeper product knowledge or spending more time personalizing content.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s helping you improve your overall skills and benefiting you longer term instead of simply checking a box. And, as you get new requests, evaluate those and protect your time by saying “No” to the ones that won’t serve you.

Consensus is Intelligent Demo Automation that scales your presales function.