Multi tasking, for a variety of good reasons, has gotten negative publicity. If you are trying to focus on two things you wind up focusing on none.
There are times, however, when I find multi tasking - in the right way - to be beneficial. Yesterday was such an example.
I am recovering from "frozen shoulder". As part of my recovery I have a series of six stretches that I need to do 3 times a day. Each stretch takes somewhere around 2-3 minutes (10 seconds, 10 times with rest in between).
Yesterday's schedule was one of non-stop phone calls. I called in 5 minutes late to one - that allowed me to microwave my leftover salmon and get a quick bio break. There was a gap late in the afternoon that allowed me to get in 20 minutes on the elliptical. Other than that - all calls.
Given my evening schedule I realized that I would be woefully short on my shoulder stretches if I didn't "multi task". So, during one call (when I didn't need to take notes), that's what I did.
This was a case where multi tasking worked quite well. I can do the stretches (which are very familiar to me and require almost no mental focus) and still be engaged on the call.
Had I chosen another form of multi-tasking - for example processing e-mails or reading innovation submissions - that would not have worked as well, since I would have been dividing up my mental energy among two competing tasks. (I'm not saying I have never done that... I'm just saying it's less effective).