What if multi-tasking was the enemy?
Not the root cause of world war, poverty, and hunger, perhaps. But still a huge contributor to the myriad problems we experience on the job and in our personal lives every day.
How can that be, you ask?
Multi-tasking is the solution.
It lets us get more done in less time so that we can actually juggle all the different things on our plate.
That’s the theory anyway.
But how well does that work in practice?
Multi-tasking is [Not] the Solution
Let’s look at a few common multi-tasking scenarios. The issue of cellphone use while driving (for texting or talking) is an issue everywhere right now. Research has shown that someone using their phone can be as much as 4 times less attentive to the road than someone not on the phone.
What does multi-tasking bring in that case?
Accidents and injuries.
Do you find that too drastic an example?
Think about when you’re sitting at your desk, talking on the phone while reviewing a document up on your computer screen. Notice how neither the phone call nor the document have your full attention.
We do less when we’re multi-tasking.
As a result we accomplish less.
The hidden trap in the lower productivity that multi-tasking brings is the feeling that we’re accomplishing more because we’re devoting our time. We don’t note the lower grade attention or effort we give. We do notice the time on the clock and count it as spent on both activities.
This leads to frustration that we didn’t get more done, or have a better experience, since we devoted that time to the effort.
In other words, multi-tasking leads to less progress and higher frustration.
Is it really accurate to call it a productivity tool?
Improve Your Experiences, and the Quality and Quantity of Your Results, By Being Present In the Moment
For a radically different experience consider giving your attention to one thing at a time.
What if you focused on one item before you moved on to the next?
What if you allowed yourself to be fully involved in an activity with your children without worrying about the work you wanted to accomplish later that day?
Is it possible that when you turned to the work you would feel refreshed and energized because you had allowed yourself to relax fully earlier?
And might you find that you made quicker work of the project in the moment because you didn’t have lingering feelings of guilt that you should really be doing something else?
Being present in the moment means giving your full attention to whatever you are involved in at that time without allowing your thoughts to wander elsewhere. What you do, and what you think about, are essentially the same, or intertwined naturally.
Relentless multi-taskers may find being present in the moment unfamiliar. And be surprised at the positive impact it has on their experiences.
If you’re one such person, consider this a challenge. Pick two days and commit to doing one thing at a time – solo-tasking – for those two full days.
As you go through the two days notice how often your focus slips away from what you’re doing to gear up for something else. And drag it back.
Watch what happens.
Chances are very good your experience away from the multi-tasking trap will be positive. In that case, consider making this choice a regular one.
Or maybe you’ll have a different experience.
Let me know.
Anne Clarke, is a personal and executive coach and principal of ABClarke Coaching. She helps individuals, professionals and entrepreneurs achieve success – however they define it. Contact Anne at [email protected] or on the web at www.setting-and-achieving-goals.com
Helen Jensen says
Multi tasking is not good. It divides your time up so nothing is completed efficiently or completely. Especially driving, multi-tasking is dangerous. One must focus to do ones best.