Event Planners – Combat Multitasking! 8 Ways to Unitask Effectively

by Feb 21, 2013

It is inevitable that event planners multitask while planning meetings & events. Yet, I wonder how many event planners know the dangerous effects that extreme multitasking has on their IQ, let alone all of the other effects that multitasking can bring? Multitasking comes with some serious downfalls, and some bloggers have gone so far to say that multitasking will kill you. Although that’s a stretch, you must admit, it does strike a chord. Event professionals have prided themselves on the fact they can multitask like nobody’s business.  Many jobs in this industry even have multitasking as a skill or requirement.  The fact is, as event professionals, we are always planning more meetings, with little time, (and in most cases), and with the same resources which  forces us into the world of multitasking.

Why talk about multitasking when everyone event profession does it? This talk around multitasking does not exist for mere entertainment. It exists so that we can review, evaluate, and apply the findings to our everyday lives. I was blown out of the water when I heard about a study that was done by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London on multitasking.  Blogger, Eric Barker, in his blog post on How do Frequent Emails and Texts Affect Productivity, explains that this study draws conclusions that “constant emails and texts reduced mental capability by an average of 10 points on an IQ test”. Whoa. As women, our IQ goes down an average of 5 points, and for men an average of 15 points.

“For men, it’s about three times the effect of smoking marijuana”, Barker writes in his post.

That’s a wake-up call! As event planners, our world generally is made up of emails, phone calls, texts,  multiple devices, and for some – much social media interaction. Knowing that your IQ drops significantly while you are multitasking makes you want to refocus on the way you work.

When it comes down to it, event planners should place focus on unitasking effectively instead of multitasking. What is unitasking exactly? It’s simple. Doing one thing at a time. I know… just looking at that sentence can your stomach turn. How are you going to get everything you need to do done, if you focus on one thing at a time right? Well, it turns out that the most highly productive people do just that. They focus.

Research shows takes on an average of 23 minutes to focus after switching a task. So if you are continuously switching tasks, it can be hard to complete what needs to be done, or it makes it increasingly stressful and difficult to finish that original task. There are many things event planners can do to promote healthy task switching, and unitasking into their planning process. Here are 8 of them:

Keep a checklist. It helps to have a check-list ready at the start of your day, with items that you need to get done. When you get into the workplace, work your list. One by one. My preference is working the most difficult or the task with the most amount of time needed to complete it first. Plan for distractions, and don’t check emails or make phone calls, unless it is scheduled in-between tasks.

Plan for your interruptions. Keep an interruption log to identify what triggers you to lose focus on a task. After you identify them, plan around them. Try to plan for bathroom breaks, talking with coworkers, and other things that tend to catch you off guard. Engage others in your plan, let them know when your calendar is free for chit-chat. That way they won’t interrupt you when you are trying to manage your checklist.

Schedule emails. Create a timed schedule that indicates when you will check your email. This can be scheduled based on your business, and email frequency. The goal is to have specific times, whether it be 3 times a day, or once an hour.

Schedule phone calls. Sometimes calls need to be made, and bringing structure as to when they are made helps you to give support to other tasks that need your support. To get even more creative, try the cluster method of organizing your calls by type (ie. contract negotiation, site selection, etc.). Also, try to isolate conference calls to specific days of the week if you can.

Schedule visitations. As event planners we can get a lot of calls from suppliers, and vendors. Sometimes they just drop-in our offices for an unscheduled visit. Although we love our suppliers and have great relationships with most of them, it can be frustrating to drop everything, for a 30-60 minute visitation in the middle of the day. If you have a receptionist, ask them to collect a business card, and you can call them back to schedule a more appropriate time for that vendor to come and visit. This might be hard at first, but after setting the expectation, it becomes easier for both parties.

Clear your calendar. Opposite from the above, have at least one to two days out of your week were nothing is scheduled. This can help you check many items off your list and support you in having more time to focus.

Take energizing breaks. In between your tasks, schedule yourself a time to take a break, talk to coworkers, and refresh your brain and body with energy. Get creative, plan a walk outside, stretch, and engage your body.

Start small. It’s inevitable that we all will multitask. However finding small and simple ways to integrate unitasking into our worlds is one step closer to finding relief in our planning.

Combat multitasking by stirring up a movement to unitask! These were just a few ways to unitask effectively as you plan your events. Have you found other ways that are useful to you? If so, please share them, would love to hear other ways that you have used to combat multitasking!


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