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Unconstrained Thinking
— Less is More

How many decisions, analyses, issues, and questions are in your in-box or strewn across your desk or stuffed into your tickler file? How many of these things do you think you are actually going to get done? How many will you get done when you promised them?

If you are like most people, the answers to the above questions probably form a series of numbers in descending order.

One more question, which I will predict continues that trend . . . How many things you need to get done will be done from start to finish without sharing time with other tasks — without multi-tasking?

Do you think there might be some cause-and-effect relationship at work here? You betcha!

One of the few common issues I’ve seen on performance appraisal forms is a judgement on how well the appraisee handles “multiple priorities.” Now there’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. Think about it. The same way there is only one weakest link in a chain, there is only one real priority for the use of your time.

To the extent that one switches back and forth between tasks or jobs, without completing them, the ability to complete them in a predictable, and timely manner is significantly jeopardized. After all, if you start job A, but switch to jobs B and C before completing it, A will simply sit idle waiting for your attention while working on the others. It will take far more time to complete and gain any real benefit from its completion than if you simply finish what you start before moving on to other work. To the extent that you succumb to the too-common practice of multi-tasking, you will find that the sooner you start a lot of work, the later it (and everything it interrupts) will finish.

Do less and you will finish things faster. Finish things faster and you will do more. If finishing is what counts, then less is more. Think about it.

©2000, Frank Patrick

To do two things at once is to do neither. - Publius Syrus

This is one of a series of columns on improvement, TOC, constraint management, change management, systems thinking, uncommon sense, and whatever else comes into my mind. Suggestions for topics are welcome. - FP, 908-874-8664 or via the contact page of this site.

If you are interested in using these 1/2-page columns for your APICS, ASQ, or IIE newsletter, let me know through the same channels, and I'll send you the more easily usable MS Word versions.

-- Frank Patrick

Related links:

The Sooner You Start, the Later You Finish

Multi-tasking Multiplies Lead Time

Turning Many Projects into Few Priorities

Unconstrained Thinking Index

Top 10 Sources of Project Failure -- A list you probably won't see on Letterman.

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