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Archive for April, 2008

Multi-Tasking Is a Myth!

25 Apr

If you think you’re multi-tasking, you are not. In reality, your attention is being ping-ponged between the multiple things you’re proudly referring to as multi-tasking. I intend to convince you that multi-tasking is an evil term that has been made up and marketed towards our fast-paced, A.D.D. lifestyles to make us feel good about ourselves.

By saying that you’re multi-tasking, you take what could otherwise be a negative connotation associated with jumping from one task to the next to the next and “spinning” it to mean some great quality that only the truly talented people possess. It’s like the kid who’s constantly falling off his bicycle but claims that he has a unique ability to detect and avoid invisible evil spirits that are in his path by quickly dismounting his bicycle. Absurd? Not too far from what people call multi-tasking.

I used to think I could multi-task. I believed all the talk about if I was doing a bunch of different things and running around like crazy that I was multi-tasking. What I figured out is that this mode is less efficient that just “tasking”. The need for multi-tasking stems from others’ needs to feel like you’re doing something RIGHT NOW for them. It’s the appearance of productivity. And there is overhead that is associated with switching from one task to the next.

Before we go further, you need to decide if you believe me or not. We do not multi-task. We may manage multiple tasks which take place exclusive of other tasks. In other words, we can manage the how, when, where, what, etc. of each task we perform. We do not perform the tasks at the same time. For example, I may need to wash the dishes, bake a cake and do laundry within the same time window. However, at any point in time, I’m only working on a task to support any one of these things.

It actually wastes time to keep switching from one task to another (unless the task has an inherent pause built in). This waste is in the form of moving from one area to another – that takes time. From returning things to their spots before moving to the next activity – that takes time. Organizing your materials and thoughts and settling into the routine of a new task – that takes time. There is transition work that takes place between all the tasks we do. Therefore, the more tasks we make out of a single one creates more transition work and takes time away from being productive towards the overall picture. Of course, when we have a million things to do, our mind is constantly worrying about other problems, interests, etc. instead of focusing on the task at hand. This can also be cleared from our minds by reducing our multi-tasking approach to work.

So I have come to embrace simplifying the way I work. Granted, I’m still fighting the A.D.D. habits I’ve formed over the years becoming a bona-fide multi-tasker. But with constant reinforcement, I can become a single-tasker. Join me in becoming more efficient, productive and clear minded. Focus on finishing each task you’ve started before moving on to the next. Do not succumb to the pressures of a convenience store society. Do not multi-task any more.

 
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