I was brought up to think that multitasking was a key skill. “great multitasker” was listed on my CV profile as I’m sure it was with many of you.
Did I really think that attempting to be good at doing several things at once was a real selling point?
Let’s take a minute to think about this. Have you tried taking a phone call whilst editing a document? Texting whilst giving verbal instructions?
No…..and there’s a good reason for it, research tells us that our brains can’t really manage tasks simultaneously, as we had been led to believe. We simply switch from task to task at speed.
Each time we try to multi-task. We are creating stop/start/stop/start pattern that causes the strain to our brain. Rather than saving time, it takes longer, it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be draining and frustrating.
There’s a short test you can do to test this theory (it’s a great little task for you/ your staff or team to do):
Draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper
Now, have someone time you as you carry out the two tasks that follow:
• On the first line, write:
'I am a great multitasker'
• On the second line: write out the numbers 1-20 sequentially, like those below:
'1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20'
How much time did it take to do these two tasks? I’m sure no longer than maybe 30 seconds.
Now try multitasking ….
Draw two more horizontal lines.
Again, have someone time you, write a letter on one line, and then a number on the line below, then the next letter in the sentence on the upper line, and then the next number in the sequence, changing from line to line. In other words, you write the letter "I" and then the number "1" and then the letter "a" and then the number "2" and so on, until you complete both lines.
I am a grea…..
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8…
The time you take to take to do the second part of the task will have doubled is double or more what it was in the first round. You also may have made some errors and you were probably frustrated since you had to “rethink” what the next letter would be and then the next number.
Multitasking is a false economy, take one task on at a time. Give that task your full attention, complete it and move on.