March 22, 2021

How to kill multitasking

Make your meetings attention span-proof by letting participants focus when it’s most convenient for them.

You’re signed into a Zoom meeting, listening to the hum of your colleagues’ voices, answering an email, and responding to Slack messages when suddenly you hear it – the telltale silence that lets you know you’ve been caught paying attention to something else. Multitasking might seem like an inevitable part of these always-on times, but in addition to not being the best look, professionally speaking, it could also be damaging to the work you’re trying to accomplish.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the fatigue of being on camera nearly constantly is detrimental to productivity, eyesight, even our mental health. And a year into the great global work-from-home experiment, we haven’t found enough ways to alleviate the root cause of multitasking: too many meetings.

In The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done, author Dave Crenshaw says the negative effects of multitasking are significant: tasks take more time, people make more mistakes, stress levels increase, and relationships can be damaged. If you’re organizing a meeting, there are ways to cut down on the urge to multitask during Zoom calls, including creating an agenda ahead of time, allowing five- to ten-minute buffer zones before and after consecutive meetings, and clearly defining what people’s roles will be during the call.

But what if you just...didn’t have as many video calls?

We work with a lot of life science teams accustomed to holding in-person meetings to get expert insight on topics of critical importance to HCPs and patients. When these meetings had to go virtual last year, many teams first turned to hours-long web meetings, which are prone to multitasking as people lose focus. And while in-person meetings may be possible again soon, they’re not immune to wandering attention, either, as people check their phones, answer work email, take calls, or simply decide they need a break.

This is where asynchronous sessions can provide the ultimate multitasking-killer – the chance for meeting participants to focus on actual work, rather than another video call. Asynchronous work takes place over a period of time – usually days or weeks – and allows people to work when they’re ready to focus. Given this time to concentrate without distraction, meeting participants often provide more in-depth and thoughtful feedback.

Clients tell us they see remarkable results from their asynchronous sessions: more new information versus in-person meetings, higher rates of participation, shorter project timelines, and equal time for all attendees to contribute to the conversation. When meeting organizers can be certain they’ll capture attendees’ attention, they can count on more work being accomplished, more thoroughly, to a higher level of quality.

Want to learn more about using asynchronous collaboration? Download our white paper to get four best practices that will set you up for virtual engagement success.