The cost of multi-tasking on TCF conversations

Multi-tasking costs time and money in TCF conversations

Gathering Management Information (MI) is an essential part of being able to demonstrate you are compliant in line with the Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) regulatory approach. An essential element is conducting regular conversations with stakeholders to discover what is working and what can be improved. This includes customers, employees and all those who impact the value chain.feeling ignored in a tcf conversation by distracted multi-tasking employee

It is easy for a customer or employee to feel ignored when we are trying to multi-task during a conversation. It is extremely difficult to really pay attention to two (or more) attention-rich tasks at the same time. Additionally, switching between complex attention-rich tasks is cognitively expensive (exhausting). Besides being extremely annoying to feel like you are not being heard when in a conversation with someone who is trying to multi-task, switching focus mid-task has a direct negative impact on our is anoying to feel you are not heard with someone multi-tasking

Research based time management productivity implications: 

  • Taking on too many complex tasks reduces our productivity by almost 40%.
  • Switching from one attention-rich task to another (e.g. from an email to a call) makes it more difficult to tune out distractions, which slows progress.
  • When switching tasks it takes time to disengage from one task, and to engage with the new task.
  • We are slower when constantly switching tasks than when we focus on one task for a block of time (e.g. switching between making calls and handling emails vs handling all our mail in one time block)

Psychologists studying the high cost of multi-tasking have found that our brains are not really designed for managing two complex tasks at the same time. As much as many of us like to think we are efficient at doing many tasks at the same time, we really are not. We can manage two (or more) automated/habitual tasks at the same time (e.g. walking and talking), but when we are learning a new task (e.g.driving) we can only really focus on one thing at a time. This is particularly true when we are having a conversation with a client or colleague where sharing knowledge and understanding are required – like in a TCF conversation.

Do you consider yourself good at multi-tasking?

Yes? Then consider why most of us turn down the sound on our radios while looking for a new address for the first time. Why? The music we hear on the radio may have nothing to do with looking for the number, but looking for a specific detail (such as an address) is an energy-hungry activity, necessitating the reduction of distractions.

When talking on the phone while simultaneously checking email we are unable to give either task sufficient focus, and we are more likely to make mistakes. Remember a time when you were in the middle of an email/document and the phone rang, how long did it take you to get back into the email after you finished the call? Or, have you ever ended up typing what you were hearing while talking to someone into an email you were working on?takes one and two minutes to get back into a task each time we get interrupted, substantially reducing our effectiveness

It takes most of us between one and two minutes to get back into a task each time we get interrupted, substantially reducing our effectiveness.

One of the best ways to avoid the high cost of multi-tasking is to create blocks of time where we can focus on one task at a time. For example, spend 20-30 minutes answering emails, and then spend another block of time making (or returning) calls. According to the research we are far more efficient when we allow ourselves to become absorbed in one specific task a time, and don’t try switch mid-task or manage too many attention-rich tasks at the same time.


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