This is really more of a personal management hack than a personnel management hack, but I think it scales pretty well–I’ve had an entire office take vertical days from time to time. And actually, I like this so well that this isn’t the first time I’ve written about it.
The concept is super simple. You just do one thing all day long, with no interruptions. Hence, “vertical day.” Really, though, you don’t have to dedicate a whole day to vertical-ness (verticality?). You can go vertical for an hour or two and reap huge rewards. In fact, Lisa Haneberg has a great webcast about exactly this idea, though she calls it “chunking.” Personally, I prefer “vertical day” even if you don’t take a whole day to do it. You’ll get so much done that you might as well call it a day. Besides, I think the word “chunking” makes my butt look big. Or something.
Vertical days are the antivenin to multitasking, which is taking a bit of a hit these days. Multitasking used to be hot. I think I even had it on my resume for a while (posesses strong multitasking skills). Thinking about that now brings back the same kind of feelings I have when I remember my mullet and parachute pants.
I’m not sure I buy into all the current hype about the evils of multitasking. I mean, I can’t exactly drive a car without multitasking, right? (ie, downshift using both feet and one hand while steering while listening to the radio and looking in the mirror to make sure that guy doesn’t drive into me, etc) Some contexts simply require multitasking. Others, not so much. Like any good thing, multitasking can be abused to the point that it makes us less productive and/or effective. Witness all the high minded scholarly research.
I say multitask to the extent neccessary, but no more. And just to offset any damage done, schedule a vertical day now and then, just to clean things up. As one commenter pointed out in this old Flickr thread, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to do more than one thing at once. Just be mindful of the context and choose wisely.