Management Tip of the Day: Knowing when multi-tasking works

Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:29am EDT
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BOSTON (Reuters) - The Management Tip of the Day offers quick, practical management tips and ideas from Harvard Business Review and ( Any opinions expressed are not endorsed by Reuters.

"Numerous studies show that multitasking doesn't help you get more done. In fact, it impedes productivity. But in today's fast-paced world, it may seem impossible to only focus on one thing at a time. Here are two times when multitasking might be more effective:

1. When information needs to flow fast. If others are waiting on you before they respond to a customer or move a critical project forward, it can be frustrating if you're not available. Picking up the phone or responding to email - even while you're working on something else - can be important, especially if you have information others don't.

2. When you're stuck. Sometimes it can be useful to focus on a difficult task. But when you reach a roadblock, it can be equally valuable to walk away and do something else while your mind ponders the issue. When you return to the task with fresh focus, you're more likely to be able to push through."

- Today's Management Tip was adapted from "In Defense of Multitasking" by David Silverman.

<p>A man juggles as he balances on a rope in a park in Hamburg April 24, 2009. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen</p>