Dealing with Multi-tasking

I'm at the Software Development conference this week. One of the hot topics I discussed in my presentations and with attendees during and after the talks were about context switching and multitasking, Focused Performance and Breakthrough Thinking on Worker Productivity and Multi-tasking Makes you Stupid, studies say.We agreed that:

  • several pieces of work at different levels causes problems (defects in code, inappropriate project plans, etc.)
  • too much work, when you try to work on it simultaneously, causes you to make no discernable progress on anything

But, you're a development/test/project manager. You have too much work to do, and not enough time to do it. What do you do?

  1. Make sure you know your boss's priorities. What does he need now? Too often the boss says everything, in which case, go to #2.
  2. What is strategically important for the company now? Note that this is not strategically important for your group, but strategically important for the company. Talk to your boss, yes, but then focus on what helps the company most.
  3. Kill the projects you need to kill. Too often we have too many projects hanging around, or products we support because we always have. Stop that now, and only support what is strategically important.
  4. Work on things that bring in revenue (or contribute to revenue) now.

Another piece of multi-tasking is to “create” more time in your day by:

  • not attending meetings you don't need to attend
  • allowing interruptions from voicemail, email, pager, cellphone, and blackberries at specific times, not when the interruptions come in
  • allowing people at the lowest level of the organization make decisions about their work, so you can make decisions about your work.

I'm still thinking about this, so I'll try to post more helpful hints later this week. (Especially once I get my connectivity worked out.)

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