Everyone today talks about the need to multitask, and the fact that in particular women are naturally good ‘multi-taskers’. Some common combinations of numerous tasks:
1. Washing the dishes while supervising children’s dinner and cooking the meal for next day (yes I have done that in the past, with what I have called ‘tremendous speed’)
2. Taping on our smart phones while walking down the street (I see so many people do that, constantly, every day despite it being bloody dangerous!)
3. Checking on google maps for directions while pushing a buggy and frantically trying to hold a toddler in tow (me and many other mums do it regularly, trying to get to a playdate or birthday party in the middle of an unknown common)
4. Talking to family members on the landline while checking emails on the mobile (and loosing track of what is being talked about in the conversation; they didn’t notice, did they?)
5. Doing our online shop on the app, while finding recipes and ordering a gift for a 3rd birthday present (that’s called not wasting your time).
We make lists. We use apps. We work hard. We entertain. We have kids. We read a lot (blog posts, social media updates, ebooks, books). We have a social and family life. We commute. We have a side passion that we try to grow and nurture. We have wider interests.
The list can be even longer, if everything was included.
This is the kind of fast-paced life we live, where our attention is continuously divided between numerous tasks, presented to us in rapid succession and sometimes even simultaneously.
While women perform better than men at multitasking and prioritising in particular ‘in stressful situations’, as numerous studies have reported, women tend to downplay their multitasking abilities while men tend to overplay them.
However, the truth is that the more we multitask, the more we make mistakes.
Our brains are not that well equipped to deal with constant interruptions and distractions that take our attention away. It even seems to be counter-evolutionary.
My husband regularly reminds me that I am ‘putting too much on my list’, an inflationary process that ends up with some randomly selected items, dropping off my list. And the ‘to-do’ list becomes a ‘wish-list’. What was the point of the list, in the first place?
Concentrating and completing one task at the time, can sometimes be much more efficient than trying to do, three other things at the same time.
For example concentrating on pushing the buggy and holding the toddler in tow, without also holding the phone and causing it to fall and break (that would be a disaster, right?)
So in fact the more I think about it, multitasking can sometimes be counter-productive, especially on competing tasks such as checking email while on a phone call or walking. But for certain tasks it can work, such as commuting and reading, or pushing the buggy and running.
Personally I am growing tired of multitasking.
I am going to start scanning my lists for competing items, remove them from today’s list and add them on to a new list. This way I will end up with a number of lists, based on priorities, but at least, I will lead to completion one list at a time.
Good at multitasking? Maybe, not so much for me finally. How about you? Are you good at it? How do find the right balance?
Some visual examples