The irony isn’t lost on me. The knowledge that I sit here multitasking; often listening to a Podcast that is giving me advice on how to focus on a single task whilst half-heartedly partaking in a raft of other jobs.
This is ironic. Actively seeking advice on how to get rid of a detrimental habit whilst actively relishing in it. That’s what multitasking is - relishing in the false belief that by stuffing around with two tasks instead of one you are getting more done. This is of course wrong.
I went to a seminar once where the presenter asked us to get a pen and paper out (as they so often do) and write down the alphabet. As I am a proud kindergarten graduate I completed the task with ease. Looking around smugly I awaited the next mission with gusto. He then asked us to write the sequential numbers of 1 to 26.
I rushed through the simple objective thinking that we were obviously heading towards creating our own simple code. YES! All of those spy books I read are about to come to fruition. I have been preparing for this my whole life. Alas. The third and final task he asked us to complete was to write (on a new piece of paper) both of the sequences we have just completed. The only trick was we needed to alternate between them. So instead of writing “abcdef…” and “12345…” we needed to write down “A 1 B 2 C 3 D 4”.
Give it a try. It is a lot harder. Like ridiculously harder. It took us easily four times as long to complete this task. The speaker was now the one wearing a smug look on his face; “and that my friends is what happens when we multitask”
I still multitask on the regular though. The sweet feeling of completing two tasks at once is like some form of productivity crack. I’m drawn towards it against my better judgement. Against all advice. I get withdrawals; lashing out when I am sitting here completing a single task like a chump.
I take way too much happiness at the thought of setting up both the washing machine and dish washer to go whilst I am also listening to a podcast and vacuuming the floor. Some people may see these tasks as a simple logical sequence. A well versed adult getting some education in whilst maintaining her household. Internally I am screaming profanities at the stupid house work that is currently being multitasked like a pro. I strut around the house glowing in the knowledge that I am currently washing the dishes, cleaning my clothes, listening to the latest “100 MBA Podcast” AND vacuuming the floor.
I AM THE MULTITASKING QUEEN.
This is of course false. I did not complete any other task whilst stacking the dishwasher. I didn’t get anything else done whilst shoving my clothes into the washing machine. These are simply asynchronous tasks that I completed the starting sequence for before leaving them to their automation and going onto another task. This is where the real magic in multitasking begins. When we stop trying to do every task our selves and instead delegate them. Not necessarily to another person but to an automated process. This is when I can get all of the tasks done at the same time - when I’m not doing them.
If I had simply outsourced the alternating sequences to a computer I would have had a quicker, cleaner and definitely less error prone result. This automation could have happened for sequences that are far out of the reach of my mere mortal cognitive function. I can not only be more efficient but also more productive. What more could we ask for in 2016?
Automation. That is my goal for the month of March. What can I automate to make my life easier? What asynchronous processes can be imported into my life to remove my human error? How can I make multitasking better?