There is no doubt that club managers are required to complete multiple tasks. The many facets of the club environment need oversight and managerial direction, and the club manager is asked to bring success to many different elements. Given this, it is no wonder that multitasking seems an attractive, even important skill to develop.
The problem is, there is no such thing as multitasking.
Research indicates that multitasking, i.e. trying to do two cognitive things at the same time, just can't be done--the brain doesn’t work that way. In reality, when we think we are multitasking we are in fact task switching – moving focus from one task to the next, which we can do with astonishing speed.
Studies also determined that task switching is less productive than the complete focus on a single task. The conundrum is that we receive emotional satisfaction when we task switch, believing we have been more productive than is the case. In reality, we are doing less, creating more personal stress and performing tasks at a lower level.
When a club manager is faced with the challenge of completing two difficult tasks, each of which is a high priority, the temptation is to ‘do them concurrently’. In such a scenario, it is important to consider and be aware of the following three areas, each of which has a serious impact on the quality of the task outcomes.
‘Multitasking’, as is commonly defined, is attempting to do two or more tasks simultaneously. Examples in a club environment would be the concierge taking phone enquiries, dealing with members and completing a duty report. Or, the Operations Manager responding to emails whiles trying to finalise the budget for the financial year.
In fact, if you look at what you’re doing right now, you’re probably undertaking a form of ‘multitasking’. While reading this article, you probably have a number of browser windows open, your email inbox is filling up with messages, and your phone is alerting you to incoming calls or texts.
Dr David Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, maintains that trying to split your attention between tasks that require effort and concentration means one or both of them will suffer:
“Once you start to make things more complicated, things get messier, and as a result, there’s going to be interference with one or more of the tasks. Either you’re going to have to slow down on one of the tasks, or you’re going to start making mistakes.”
Research studies have concluded that ‘multitasking’ has the following detrimental consequences on our physical and mental well-being.
Short-Term Memory Impact. A 2011 University of California research study found ‘multitasking’ has a negative impact on working memory – your brain’s capability to focus on and manage key information is diminished by ‘multitasking’.
Increased Anxiety. Neuroscientists have found that ‘multitasking’ and task switching drain the brain’s serotonin reserves, causing a loss of focus and greater levels of anxiety.
Inhibits Creative Thinking. As well as increased anxiety, depletion of brain energy can affect your ability to think outside the square. Our brains need space to be creative and consider, create and analyse new ideas and concepts.
Stops Flow. Flow, or ‘being in the zone’ is a state of mind when we are completely absorbed and focussed on the task at hand. In this state, productivity goes through the roof (some studies claim up to more than 500% more productive), and quality is enhanced. To achieve this state, ‘multitasking’ must be avoided.
Is inefficient and causes mistakes. Multiple studies have proven that ‘multitasking’ results in people taking longer to do basic tasks and being less accurate in their completion. Measurements of IQ show that when people are ‘multitasking’, there is a drop by an average of 10 points. Other research suggests there is a direct correlation to negative health impacts and ‘multitasking’.
2. Switching Costs
As mentioned, our brains can’t do two things at once – they are just not wired that way. Instead, what we think of as ‘multitasking’ is really just switching back and forth between tasks very quickly. However, bouncing between tasks takes a toll.
On the surface, task switching doesn’t seem that bad. We have the ability to switch focus fast. In fact, it can take as little as a tenth of a second. So, from a time perspective, not a lot of harm done. However, it is the energy and focus required to jump from one task back to another that is the killer. It’s draining.
Simple exercises and time and motion studies clearly demonstrate the time savings of doing one thing at a time and then moving on to the next one. And, by hooking up exercise participants to heart rate monitors, higher stress levels were recorded when people were constantly switching between tasks.
3. Attention Residue
As pointed out, doing one thing at a time is infinitely more productive and efficient than multitasking. However, just because you focus on a task, complete it and quickly move to the next doesn’t mean you’re immune from debilitating effects similar to those from ‘multitasking’.
Every time you complete a task and are ready to move on to the next activity, your brain must perform two high-level and energy-intensive processes.
The first thing your brain’s executive functions need to determine is, what is the next task (deciding which task to tackle next). This is referred to as Goal Shifting.
The second stage is Role Activation, where you change from the context and requirements of the previous task to the new one. Or how to go about the next task.
As well as being mentally taxing, moving onto new tasks is also not a clean-cut process.
When we move from one task to the next, it takes time for our attention to catch up. It is known as Attention Residue and refers to the fact that bits of information, lingering ideas and floating thoughts remain even after we have crossed the task off our to-do-list. We are human beings, not machines and our subconscious ability to think about what’s not happening is a uniquely human cognitive achievement that unfortunately comes at a cost.
The extent of Attention Residue was demonstrated when a 2010 Harvard study concluded that individuals spend nearly half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are currently doing.
The modern club environment is a minefield of ‘multitasking’ pitfalls and club managers who are able to focus completely and intensely on one task at a time are at a distinct advantage. To get tasks done with high-quality and in less time, you need to harness the power of single-tasking.
The benefits that single-tasking provide include: -
By expending that extra energy attempting to ‘multitask’, you end up exhausted and with a list full of half-completed tasks. By single-tasking, and focussing on one thing at a time, you are more likely to achieve a state of flow and get into that zone. In turn, you will actually complete what you want to achieve, feel satisfied and proud and reduce your overall stress.
The exercise of deciding what you will dedicate your full focus and attention to next, helps you prioritise your most important work. Single-tasking asks the specific question of “What should I be doing” as opposed to “What could I be doing”. This means saying ‘no’ to those other things that try to grab your attention and maintaining focus on the task you spent the mental energy determining was your number one priority.
When you are single-tasking, your brain is not engaged in jumping from one thought to another and is fresh and available to consider the task at hand from different perspectives. Flashes of inspirations and creativity boosts are the result of having your brain supporting you fully on that single task or activity.
The Club Managers Association of Australia (CMAA) has been supporting and developing club managers to achieve high levels of leadership and management ability for many years. The training and development of knowledgeable and motivated leaders that are capable of achieving greatness on behalf of their clubs is a passion of the CMAA. To this end, they offer the professional certification - the Active Certified Club Managers Award (ACCM).
Individuals who hold the ACCM, have demonstrated that they possess the skills, have the range of knowledge and can model behaviours that drive premium results for their club.
The foundation stone of the ACCM is the Club Managers Leadership and Management program, an online, training course, delivered by elevateB (a specialist training company) and independently endorsed by Australis College (a Registered Training Organisation)
The Club Managers Leadership and Management program has been modelled on the Diploma of Leadership and Management, ensuring it covers a full gambit of management and leadership topics. Importantly, it has been tailored and contextualised for club environments and day to day club management situations. To successfully complete the program, participants are required to demonstrate required knowledge, skills and abilities through application and activity submissions.
For more information on the Club Managers Leadership and Management program, click here.