Multitasking: What it is and what it isn’t

multitaskTo successfully run any business, you have to learn how to effectively balance many responsibilities. No matter how simple or streamlined your business is, you’re always going to have things like marketing, sales, operations, accounting, management, production, etc. that you have to balance. Invariably, the term “multitasking” comes up, but that word has been misinterpreted countless times and often leads to less productivity instead of more. Let’s break down how to effectively multitask and contrast it with the wrong way so you can avoid making these common mistakes yourself.

Multitasking is not: doing multiple things at once.

See how unhappy this guy looks? There’s a reason for that. Also, notice that you don’t actually have that many arms? There’s a reason for that, too.

When taken literally, multitasking can be interpreted as doing multiple things at once. Here’s the thing, though: Your brain isn’t wired that way. Try having a phone conversation while responding to an e-mail. You just can’t do it – or, if you can, you end up doing both tasks poorly.

conductorMultitasking is: being responsible for multiple things at once.

If you’re ever going to be an effective manager, you need to get to this point. The conductor in the image above isn’t physically carrying boxes while going to a sales presentation while drawing up some blueprints. He has people in place dedicated to those activities, and he’s managing these activities so they occur harmoniously.

Now, you might be thinking, “That’s all fine and good, but I can’t afford a whole team yet. How does this help me?”

That’s a great question, and here’s the answer: Until you get to that point, you have to understand that you can’t really do two things at once on the mico-level.

lizardSee that lizard? He can look at two things at once. You can’t.

Instead of trying to do too many things at once and watch your productivity suffer and your stress rise, try this: Make a list of everything you have to do so it’s not floating around in your head. Then, starting with the most important things, do only one thing at a time. As tempting as it is to skip ahead, that’s where stress and a lack of focus come from. One single thing at a time. Eventually, you will get to a place where you will have a team that enables the business to do multiples things simultaneously, but until then, you have to stay disciplined with your time and focus on what you are doing. That’s how you get there.

Dr. Bert Shlensky, president of, offers experience and skills and a team devoted to developing and executing winning strategies for businesses of all kinds.  This combination has been the key to client success.  His books for the business entrepreneur: Marketing Plan for Startups & Small Business and Passion & Reality for Small Business Success, are available at