Multi-tasking was once seen as the future of business. After all, if you can do many things at once, you can get more done and make more money, right?

In theory, it was a brilliant idea. Human beings could do more in less time and be more productive than ever before in history.

It was also flawed. It ignored one tiny problem. People suck at multi-tasking. They’re not bad at it. They’re terrible. Study after study revealed a single principle for productivity – “achieve a state of flow”.

Flow is where you work on a single project that is neither too easy nor too hard for an extended period of time. In short, it was “single tasking” that worked. Multi-tasking was disastrous, it didn’t make us more productive – it killed our productivity.

You didn’t do more in less time, you did less in more time, instead.

Sadly, women in business didn’t get this memo. They got a memo, as reported by Harvard Business Review, that said, “women are better at multi-tasking than men.” It’s just that when this turned out to be nonsense that nobody bothered to tell the women they’d misled.

The fact is that in a lab designed to replicate real life work. Men and women both sucked at multi-tasking. Big time. While it is possible that gender has some impact on multi-tasking, it’s now clear that any impact of gender is going to be minimal, at best.

A Bigger Business Lesson Lies Within

There is a bigger business lesson when it comes to the fact that multi-tasking is a bad idea. And that is – when you’re running a business, it is better to get good at one thing, before moving on to try and master another.

Now, it’s impossible to think that we, as business owners, are going to be given the luxury to focus on just one aspect of running a business in any given time period.

What is true, however, is that in each area of business we are faced with a choice. We can focus our efforts on one thing within that discipline and get good at it or we can try and do everything and get very little (if any) better at everything.

This will be clearer with an example.

Let’s take marketing.

You can try to market your small business everywhere. Set up your social media, build a website, record radio and TV spots, design a newspaper campaign, learn SEO and SEM to get the most out of Google, buy some branded merchandise to give away, sign up for trade shows and networking events, etc.

You might succeed in getting your name out there but you’d never know whether you were getting good at what you were doing and you’d be exhausted.

So, you have two choices at this point:

  • Focus your efforts on one thing in that pile
  • Outsource your efforts on many things to experts so that you don’t have to deal with them

You see, you can cheat the rule of “focus on one thing”. Your business can multi-task as long as you’re not doing everything by yourself. You can ensure that your marketing is done by experts, or your logistics, or your accounting.

Then you can focus on the things that you are good at. Safe in the knowledge that your marketing experts have cut out the TV ads (no budget), the radio ads (who listens to radio?), etc. and are focusing on what works (online advertising) for the investment you can make.

The best business women aren’t fooled into multi-tasking, they make smart decisions and let others do the work for them.