I often observe sales and service professionals who are so busy and who believe that multi-tasking during phone calls, conferences, while driving, etc. makes them more productive. My friend, Kelly, calls this “wearing your Busy Badge”. Does this sound like you? I know it can be me. That is why it was interesting to research information on the productivity of us busy people.

I found Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist, who has written a book titled Crazy Busy. I love that title because it is something I hear often from friends, clients and colleagues. In fact, I have two emails from people in the last week using that term…”Sorry for this or that, I’ve been Crazy Busy!”

Dr. Hallowell gives some interesting information for us to consider… he says multi-tasking is a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” In an article, he described a new condition, “Attention Deficit Trait.” ADT is “purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live,” writes Hallowell, and its hallmark symptoms mimic those of ADD. Whew, I thought I needed Ritalin to get through the day.

“Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points,” Hallowell argues, and this challenge “can be controlled only by creatively engineering one’s environment and one’s emotional and physical health.” Limiting multi-tasking is essential.

Mutli-tasking affects our economy as well! Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex, estimates that extreme multi-tasking costs the U.S. economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity. How can that be? Researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover and return to their original task after an interruption such as a phone call or answering e-mails. Twenty five minutes! Even if the phone call was 2-3 minutes – this is nearly a half hour of lost productivity.

Now the big question is how can we minimize multi-tasking – and yes it can be done!!!

Two sources for ideas for these ideas:

1. The Power of Focus for Women, a book by Fran and Les Hewitt. Many of the ideas are not just for women. Les adds a man’s perspective at the end of each chapter.

2. Business advisor and author, Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek. Now his philosophy is definite Gen-Y – and many of us baby boomers consider it radical. And yet, as I read through his ideas and blog at the fourhourworkweek.com there were several very practical ideas I can implement in addition to some from the Hewitts.

Anti-Multi-tasking ideas to consider:

1. Outsource what you can – no matter what your income, there are things that take you more time and energy than are worth the cost to have someone else do them. It is amazing how inexpensively some things can get done. Each time I add an outsource I think, “Why did I ever do that for this long?” Virtual Assistants are so reasonable and can help so much!

2. Prioritize each morning. And then address the most important first.

3. Set time aside for you and the things that you are passionate about. At the Sales Expert Summit last month, Danita Bye said that “just because I am competent in something, doesn’t mean I am passionate about it.” If you aren’t passionate about something, why are you trying to multi-task with it.

4. Delegate. This is different from Outsourcing. Delegating means it is someone at home or work that you can assign a responsibility or activity do…and not pay them extra to do it!

5. Minimize the number of times your emails are received. Both on your computer and on the hand-held. A colleague, Alice Kemper, scheduled hers to only be received every 60 minutes. we thought she was nuts. But guess what? She now is more in control of her time and schedule. Unless we have life-or-death matters being emailed to us, why do we need to be interrupted every 3-5 minutes?

For all you multi-taskers, this is a lot to consider. And it will be great to hear how you either believe your Crazy Busy schedule works for you. Or additional ideas for reducing the amount of multi-tasking going on!