Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Millennials, Multitasking and Associations: What Can We Do at Work

I’m a piler not a filer. I’m a multitasker. I’m easily distracted. Probably would have been diagnosed as ADD but they didn’t have that term when I was growing up.

I’ve progressed from being the guy to “run” to the fax machine (when it was called a “telecopier”) when I heard one coming in. Then, I progressed to opening an email as soon as I heard it chime in. Now, it’s watching Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn. And, oh, how I love the ability to have multiple screens and programs running simultaneously via Windows!

I’m like a squirrel chasing nuts ... when another drops, I stop what I’m doing and chase the next one.

This work style suited me and had positive results when I was a reporter at the Associated Press. And, served well when a communications crisis arose at my association. And, really helped when I jumped among 8-10 associations my AMC managed.

When I’m giving presentations and/or leading discussions about millennials in the work force, I always (I mean every time) get asked about what do we do about millennials who work while texting, talking, Tweeting and/or listening to their iPods?

Well, as you can tell from my opening confession, I’m probably not the right person to answer!

I reluctantly read (and shared) some multitasking research posted the other day on the Faculty Focus blog titled Students Think They Can Multitask. Here’s Proof They Can’t.

Well, the numbers are all there via five different studies. Proof that multitasking is less productive, less efficient.

So, what are association executives to do? It’s not like we can say “check your smartphones at the front door!”

Because of my own personal work style, I’m challenged on this one. Share your thoughts.


  1. I'm constantly teaching and reminding my 10 year old daughter to focus and to work on a project until it's complete. It's simply not possible for her to be watching something on the computer and be successful at math.

    I think the same logic applies to work and multi-tasking. Sure, there's some element of multi-tasking that is okay but in my opinion that applies to the "lighter" elements of our jobs. I think the concept of "chunking" or blocking time to work exclusively on something is much more productive and produces better results in the long run. So perhaps I'm suggesting a hybrid model that trains our brains to flip between multi-tasking and chunking.

    In any case, thanks for sharing your thoughts as I bounce from the three screens on my desktop....

  2. Thanks Kris.

    Good points. I like the idea of giving young people "practice" in "chunking." In surely would have helped me!


  3. Steve, your words are my story as well. My response has been to be a chronic note and list maker. I have a whiteboard in my office to write those "pop up" ideas down (in vivid color, so I can go back to the task at hand. I turn off my monitor when I am concentrating on reading a financial or other in- depth report. While I usually have low music on the in background of my office, if I really need to focus, I use earbuds to drown out any distracting noises from colleagues and electronics alike.
    Being forced out of your comfort zone can also make you less productive and efficient, so I think it is our responsibility to provide the right environment for employees to thrive and learn. Learning to thrive within your own best work style is a key to success no matter your age or work style.

  4. Thanks Pam. Think your strategies make sense. Wish I could stick with that type of strategy!