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Multitasking Is a Myth. How to Be Really Effective at Work?

Article May 29, 2019  |  Text by Markéta Miková Text by Markéta Miková

Dan Gamrot is a leading Czech expert on personal productivity. He advises corporations and individuals, gives presentations and writes about how to work less but better. His zen serenity is inspiring and in his presence you quite naturally decide to stop working on five different projects at the same time and working at night. After all, your health is more important.

What, in your experience, are the most frequent obstacles of effective and successful work performance?

Daniel Gamrot: It is first and foremost multitasking. A lot of people try to handle many tasks at the same time. They also make different lists and have things scattered all over the place. In the end, they race against time and struggle with a lot of information.

As a result, they are unable to concentrate on what is important for them, they spend very little time on it and they may not even have enough energy to do it.

Photo by Jaroslav Kocián

They often cannot have enough energy if they work late into the night or on weekends…

And this is the second most frequent obstacle. I see more and more people who push themselves to the limit and do not spend much, or any, time to recharge. Yet, we need to maintain a certain level of energy in order to be able to invest into important things. People often behave against their own interest: they do not sleep enough, eat unhealthy food and hardly ever rest.

Can the actual work environment and its organization present a problem for effectiveness?

Yes, it can since an office generates many disturbances that distract us at the time we need to concentrate on so-called deep work. Together with our clients we identify and evaluate what distracts them and then try to resolve the problem. The problem could be their colleagues, noise, loud conversations or phone calls, rushing off to use digital technologies as well as physical parameters, such as room temperature or excessive or insufficient light.

Unfortunately, people often do not realize that outstanding and postponed tasks distract them as well. They keep thinking about them, become absent-minded and in the end procrastinate even more. 

How to successfully prevent distraction in an open space office? How to find work time for ourselves and our tasks?

We must know what is important, what it is specifically and when we will do it. When we know all this, it is much easier to decide what we should do first based on our own priorities as well as other people’s priorities that will just waste our time.

It is important to protect our time when we are the most productive and to eliminate disturbances. I recommend getting down to the core and to ask what the reason is. If there are several reasons, we should proceed gradually and try to eliminate the burden step by step.

Photo by Jaroslav Kocián

And what to do about procrastination? How to fight the procrastination of important tasks so that we would not have to do them under pressure and with mistakes?

We usually procrastinate with things that do not have a concrete deadline (or have a late deadline), are complicated and whose purpose is not clear to us. I recommend dividing difficult tasks into small steps and performing these steps. Not rolling a giant boulder but breaking it down into small pieces that are not so difficult. And it is very important to know why we are doing a certain task. We are then much more motivated than if the purpose is unclear or only formal.

And in conclusion – what habits of personal effectiveness does a manager need to have in order to be successful in the long term?

In my opinion, it is important to focus on the most important things and to get rid of things that are unimportant and only take up time and energy. And to regularly recharge instead, because a managerial position includes a lot of decision-making and solving conflict, complicated and extreme situations. If a manager is tired and sleep-deprived, it becomes much more difficult for him to work. And the third habit is about creating a system that helps to keep a clear head so that it could concentrate and solve problems in a creative way.

Dan Gamrot presenting at event called Powerful manager's assistant