Byron's Babbles

Resist Multitasking: Cut The Pattern To Fit The Cloth

Posted in Coaching, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 7, 2015

I am almost a week behind on my reflection of week nine in A Year With Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of  Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness (Maciarello, 2014). I usually read the week’s lesson and write the post on Sunday mornings. Last week, however, I had to fly out to be at Harvard University early Sunday morning so I packed my book and was going to do the work Sunday night. Well, long story short, the airline lost my bag and I just had it returned last night – a full day after returning home. That entire experience and adventure may be the topic of another post.

The basic premise of last week’s lesson was to organize our personal work and the work we delegate to others effectively. We should attempt to plan our time, making sure that our most important tasks are done first, and, as much as is possible, resist pressures to engage in multitasking (Maciariello, 2014). Both empirical evidence and common practice confirm that multitasking really isn’t possible. In other words, we should fit our most important tasks into our available time. Or, “Cut the pattern to fit the cloth.”

Andy Grove, one of the three founders of Intel, put it this way: “What am I doing that I shouldn’t be doing (Maciariello, 2014, p. 66)?” Grove also offered four other great questions to help guide us in resisting multitasking: 

  • Should I still be doing it?
  • Am I doing it well?
  • Am I adding enough value to what I am doing?
  • Is it more worthwhile or less worthwhile than anything else?

Grove shared that after answering these questions he then negotiates with himself.

So how do we make this all happen? We must learn to delegate certain activities, abandon other activities, or relax the frequency of the performance of repetitive duties. To do this we must have the strongest followers. Successful leaders are not afraid of strong subordinates. We must assemble the most talented team available develop their competency and capacity, and then, get out of their way. When we develop others we simultaneously develop ourselves because we have to figure out how to raise the capacity of the people we are trying to develop. This will serve as a stretching activity for us, too.

Therefore, resist multitasking, develop your team with “A” players, and determine what are the most important tasks for you. As Peter Drucker said, “Effective leaders delegate, but they do not delegate the one thing that will set the standard. They do it (Maciariello, 2014, p. 70)!” 


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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