To Multitask, Or Not To Multitask, That Is The Question
A few years ago, my husband Joe called from Alaska to invite us to The Last Frontier for a fun, albeit freezing family vacation. I had never been and quite simply missed my husband so minutes later I had six tabs open on my desktop comparing flights. I was on a mission!
Before deciding which flight to book, my dad called asking me to find him a flight for a trip of his own. I told him, “No problem!” then pulled his flight options up on my screen in new tabs. I called my dad back a short time later saying, “I found a great deal. Only $174 round-trip. Should I book it?” He gave me the okay and I booked his flight. I returned to booking my own travel arrangements to Alaska.
Later that afternoon I opened my dad’s flight confirmation email. What?! I had booked him to fly roundtrip from MY airport to his airport instead of from HIS airport to his destination. Whoops! In my hurry, I had possibly made a $174 mistake! Luckily for me, I was able to switch his flight for no charge but my error cost me in other ways. It cost me hours of precious time calling the travel booking site, waiting on hold only to find out the representative who finally answered couldn’t help me, being transferred, waiting on hold again, being told I had to contact the airline directly, calling the airline, and so on, all because I attempted to… dare I say it? Multitask.
Have you experienced a similar scenario? Maybe you even embrace the art of multitasking? Many years ago, I proudly listed multitasking as a skill on my resume. I reasoned that environments are increasingly demanding so with the pressure to be efficient and productive, I should attempt to excel at doing more than one thing at a time. The problem with my theory was there’s no such thing as multitasking.
Aside from brainless activities like chewing gum while walking, we are incapable of executing two activities at the same time well. When you think you are “multitasking” you are actually just switching back and forth between tasks rapidly. Neither task is receiving your full attention, plus you’re losing time and focus each time you make the switch. When you buy into the lie of multitasking, you are condemning yourself to feeling overwhelmed, inaccuracies in your work, and poor communication with others. Being efficient is a handsome goal but it requires you to focus on one activity at a time with all your effort and brainpower, not fragments of it.
The temptations to “multitask” are endless. Learn to recognize the two main types that prevent you from working efficiently so you can avoid their traps.
This type occurs when you proactively distract yourself by attempting to do more than one activity at a time such as scrolling through Facebook while listening to a speaker at a conference. You won’t be retaining the speaker’s nuggets of wisdom, nor will you be comprehending what you’re seeing and reading on social media.
This type occurs when someone else distracts you, drawing your attention away from whatever you’re doing such as when a colleague requests your opinion on an offer and you discuss it with her while continuing to input numbers into QuickBooks. While passively engaging with your colleague, you’re likely making errors in your accounting records that could breed disastrous results come tax season.
Both internal and external “multitasking” are lose-lose situations because neither activity receives your undivided, focused attention and therefore neither of them are completed to the best of your ability. “Multitasking” is a misnomer! You cannot accomplish multiple tasks at once that require your attention. The above scenarios are simply examples of alternating focus back and forth from one task to another which decreases focus and wastes time, thus decreasing your productivity.
Don’t buy into the lie of “multitasking.” If multiple tasks require your attention, complete one then move on to the next. Otherwise, you might wind up arriving at the airport for a non-booked flight or worse. Time is your most valuable asset and attempting to “multitask” results in wasting it. Question answered.
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About the Contributor
She helps real estate professionals take consistent, massive, focused action in business and equips them with the specific techniques needed to reduce stress, increase profits, make more time for what matters most, and achieve their vision of success.
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