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The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done Hardcover – August 18, 2008
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From School Library Journal
The growth of email and text messages, among other innovations, has made time management at work more of a challenge. Keeping up with all of this simultaneous communication can become counterproductive. Business coach Crenshaw (founder, Fresh Juice Strategy) addresses the myths about multitasking and argues that it can in fact cost valuable time to employees. Crenshaw frames his book in the form of a fictional case study: "Phil," a consultant, is about to meet with the manager of retail clothing chain "GreenGarb: Clothes Mother Nature Intended" about improving employees' time management skills. Crenshaw's point is that the notion of multitasking is a false construct that costs both time and money. In fact, employees are "switch tasking" (switching back and forth between two or more tasks). Crenshaw claims that "background tasking" (doing two or more tasks, with only one of them requiring mental effort) could be more efficient and effective. Currently, employees lose time owing to interruptions by coworkers, distractions from new technologies, lack of attention to colleagues when they are speaking, and juggling home and work. The author also provides exercises for employees to measure their efficiency and effective use of time. Bibliographic citations are included, but a glossary would have been helpful. Overall, readable and thought-provoking; recommended for public and academic libraries.—Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ., Jamaica, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"This little book was both a pleasure to read and offered some very practical advice in the form of a modern day fable." (Oliver Starr, Editor, Getting Things Done Times)
"Are you a master of juggling e-mail, voice mail, cell-phone calls and the like? No, you're not, says this slim fable-cum-manifesto against multitasking. The author, a business coach, gently ridicules the idea that anyone can concentrate on two things at the same time." (Andrea Sachs, Senior Reporter, Time Magazine, November 2, 2008)
"This simple yet powerful book shows clearly why multitasking is, in fact, a lie that wastes time and costs money. Far from being efficient, multitasking actually damages productivity and relationships at work and at home." (businessskillbooks.blogspot.com, November 24, 2008)
"I applaud Crenshaw for taking on a popular buzzword and small-scale plague not only in business life, but also our day-to-day world. Multitasking is indeed a myth. I would be tempted to be more vigorous in my rhetoric and say that multitasking is a fraud and a thief." (businesscoach.us.com, November 24, 2008)
"Crenshaw's on a mission to reduce distractions, interruptions, and fire-fighting at work, and create environments that let employees see through tasks with their full attention before moving onto the next thing." (blumerlamotte.blogspot.com, October 13, 2008)
Top customer reviews
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The book describes the story of Phil who is called in my Helen for some reason. He convinces her that multi-tasking is not efficient (as she seemed to believe) and teaches her different ways of organizing her work so that she does not need to "switchtask" and becomes more effective. Of course, she believes the consultant, changes all her habits and her company and a happy end.
The book is easy to read. It's also small, you can read it in about an hour!! There is not much more than the above story in the book and some quotes from different research (of which some are actually interesting). One thing that annoyed me is that the author decided to rename "multi-tasking" to "switchtasking". I kept wondering why he couldn't call it simple "task switching" which is the common term for this.
The book didn't bother me. I got a couple of useful research quotes out of it and one interesting game to "prove" multitasking is inefficient. The book is small and therefore it might be easy to read. Don't expect much though. 3 stars.
The premise that multi-tasking---or as Crenshaw cleverly calls it, "switchtasking"---is an ineffective way of going about one's business is certainly true. Myth? Surprisingly, a majority of us believe it's a necessary evil; there's no way around it. That statisticallly valid conclusion was personally drawn by this reviewer after surveying 25 league bowlers at Via Linda Lanes, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hey, that's where I hang out; okay?
You may ask why I found it necessary to corroborate the findings of the author; after all, he wrote the book; he knows. Well, I thought everybody else knew that "switchtasking" was bad tasking, hence my orginal review was luke warm. I've dialed it up a notch, because not only does the author (an expert) know what he's talking about, 25 bowlers backed up his theory; I stand corrected.
Several other books also address this subject, which are worth reading as well: Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long,Talk Less, Say More: Three Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen,Power of Less, The: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential...in Business and in Life,The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less, and The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials).
Certainly, Crenshaw tells a nice story, and if it were the only book you'd read on time management issues, you wouldn't be doing yourself a disservice. The message he delivers is clear, and one that we should already know by now (but we don't); so stop kidding yourself. If you want to be more productive, stick to one task at a time. Hopefully, we're all listening now; including those 25 bowlers in Scottsdale.
I can't tell you my personal back story for this book. I don't know how it made it on to my list, but I'm glad it did.
This short, small book is in the parable/business fiction genre. It tells the story of Helen, a harried CEO and Phil, her consultant. Through the story and with some exercises tools that our outlined in the back of the book so you can use them as well, Phil convinces Helen that multitasking is a myth - that as humans we really can't multitask at all.
I have long believed that to be true, and perhaps that is why the title intrigued me.
Whether you agree with the premise of the title, or are violently opposed; you should read it.
Have I solved all of my time management problems by reading this book? No, but I have ideas I am implementing that are making a difference.
I could share the key lessons from this book, but it would take away from your reading experience (which will be brief - the story itself is about 100 pages in a small format book).
Pick up a copy. Read it. Share it with others. Talk about it with them. And apply at least one of the key ideas.
It will be worth your time.