Are You a Multi-Tasker?
Kitty J. Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP
Certified Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach
Are you one of those people who really believe that you can multi-task and to it well? Can you listen to your children complain about their day while you are cooking dinner with half of your attention on your children and half on what you are doing at the stove?
Or perhaps you are a multi-tasker at work. You find yourself checking email while you are on the phone listening to a client or a vendor make an offer that you really can’t refuse…except you aren’t positive what exactly the offer entails since you were responding to an email from your boss about your latest project.
Perhaps you are one of those people who go to staff meetings with paperwork that you think you can probably tend do since you aren’t the one in charge of the meeting and you believe you can listen while you work.
I will admit, I am guilty of thinking that I can do more than one thing at a time. I can drive and talk on the cell phone (as long as it is still legal). I can check email while I am listening to a webinar. I can have the TV on while I am reading a book. I am smart…I am capable…and I don’t have time to do everything I need to get done if I don’t try to do two or three things at once. Sound familiar?
Here’s a tip that I have just come to recently. Maybe it’s because I am older and I really can’t divide my attention as well as I thought I could when I was younger, or perhaps I am just wiser and am recognizing that doing several things at once might mean that they are getting done, but it doesn’t mean that they are getting done well.
Recently, I came to a realization. I was trying to listen to a webinar about Facebook. The purpose of the webinar was to teach me tips and tricks for maximizing my Facebook business page. The webinar is very well done. The facilitator is great, and the information is very valuable. But instead of giving the webinar my total attention, I opened my Facebook page in another browser and started attempting to implement the tips that were being suggested in real time while I was supposed to be listening and watching. Can you guess what happened?
Before I knew it, I was totally lost. None of what the facilitator was saying was making any sense because I had tuned out long enough that she lost me. So I had to go back and reset the webinar so I could catch up. Doing it that way wasn’t efficient at all. I didn’t accomplish what I needed to accomplish, and I wound up having to go back and listen to the entire presentation again.
There should be something said about doing something and doing it well because you gave it your full attention. This is why there is so much emphasis on the importance of being present in the moment. When we are talking on our cell phones while we are walking along the beach, we miss the breathtaking moments that are inherent in walking along the beach and paying attention to the feel of the water as it softly curls around you toes or the squishiness of the sand asyou walk barefoot leaving your footprints to be washed away by the next wave. You miss the sounds of the seagulls as they fly about searching for food. You miss the little shells that have been left half-buried in the sand. And this is just one example of the things you miss when you try to do too many things at once.
If you have ever been on the phone with someone while you were scanning your email, you may or may not realize that you have given short shrift to both activities. You aren’t giving the person on the phone the attention they need and deserve, and you aren’t doing justice by the person who wrote you the email. You could easily miss something important in one or both of the exchanges because you were only paying half your attention to each.
I am making a pledge to myself that starting now, I do one thing at a time with an intention of doing each thing well. I am hoping that by setting this new intention for myself, I can save time as well as build stronger more trusting relationships as my colleagues, family and friends come to realize that I am fully present with them in the moments that I spend with them.
Here’s something to think about…just because you CAN multi-task doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Time is a precious commodity, I know. Believe me, I am aware of the feeling that time is slipping away at what feels like a faster and faster rate. The fact is, however, that we can spend time doing several things poorly, or we can spend our time doing one thing at a time and doing it superbly. I know which I prefer.