Multitasking Is the Mother, Father, and Mother in Law of Fruitlessness

Multitasking helps when you don’t want to do things very well, just check them as done. It seems that we aren’t built in such a manner so we can do a lot of things at the same time and also do them at the highest level of performance.


Photo Unsplash

And I don’t mean simple things, such as steering the wheel, checking the mirrors, shifting gears, smoking, maybe putting some lipstick on and texting – it’s a scientific fact that women are better at multitasking than men. By considering each task, you’ll find them simple, but when they are combined can prove to be fatal.

Don’t imagine that at work things are different. You work on an important task and your phone rings, it’s someone important/dear and you have to take the call. This will ruin your rhythm automatically.

The same thing happens when someone comes to you unannounced when you get an email/social media notification or a colleague tells a story about last night’s game and the whole concentration breaks off.

When you talk to someone you should give them undivided attention, it’s not polite to play with your phone/tablet. When you reach the cashier office, you wouldn’t want them to pull out their phone and watch some funny movie with a puppy sliding down a chute while you are waiting.

The more you multitask, the more superficial you will get to be, no matter if it’s about your professional or private life.

Even if you feel that you are super productive, jumping from one activity to another, this just gets you distracted and the attention you pay to any of them will be diminished. If you finish one thing and start something else, it’s a totally different story.

The human brain doesn’t have the capacity to perform two things at the same time. I don’t mean complicated things like listening to music (which up to a point really helps) and chewing gum.

What can you do, so you are not distracted by others:

–    Let’s say you already settled some objectives for the current day. I mean the most important things (maximum three), but which are not business as usual; DON’T count answering emails because is not an objective per se, just a communication channel. Before the very existence of email, people didn’t set an objective to “talk” on the phone;

–    When you are in the middle of something close all the other communication channels so you don’t get distracted;

–    Don’t start anything else until you finish that initial something;

–    Do not confuse productivity with multitasking;

–    Don’t try to memorize useless things. You have notebooks, apps, and other tools, don’t burden yourself for no reason. As you don’t have to remember the 18 things you have to buy from the grocery store, you should do the same at work. A to-do list updated every morning with the tasks checked off once finished is extremely efficient;

–    Don’t delay decision making;

–    Don’t say Yes to all requests. Your role is to finish everything you have to do, not to be the person open to everything. Very helpful people always have productivity issues exactly for this reason. Don’t program your brain to say “I can’t do this!” because it will affect not only you but also the recipient of such answer. Better try the polite “the time allocated to current tasks doesn’t allow me to take some more”;

–    You have to finish your duties first. Period.

“You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.” Gary Keller

In a very simple experiment, people at Fast Company had more persons solve a simple 60 pieces puzzle (recommended for children above the age of 4 years) and answer 5 emails. One group had to do this on time, meaning working on the puzzle and answering emails (on the phone) as they arrived, and the other group had to answer emails only after finishing the puzzle. The resulted were definitely in favor of those who finished the puzzle and then answered emails, their emails were more complex and coherent. There was also another category of “lab rats” that had the phone opened and they were only allowed to see the notifications without acting upon them, they also performed poorly because of the distraction.

Good luck in handling your successes, one at a time, please!