Is Multitasking Just Half-Assing?

I remember when the fax machine first became popular. My mom came home from work and was complaining about the lost time buffer in between client communications. No more mail delays to catch your breath. Everything had to be instantaneous. Had she had a glimpse into 2016 she probably would have held onto that late 80s chill factor.

I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted what a bleep on the screen the simple fax machine was compared to the speed of communication now. We all know that everything is instantaneous. ASAP means yesterday. We’ve probably all worked for people that expect you to check your e-mail within the hour on a Sunday. If you don’t,  you’re either dead or fired. Death being the only legitimate excuse. We are forced to do everything at once.

Multitasking actually is bullshit. Our brains don’t really work that way. Sure we can shuffle around and feign productivity well enough to think that we are actually getting anything done – but we’re not – or at least not as well as we could. Especially if you are a creative person you need space to breath and create. Ideas can rush in just as potently when your on a run or at the beach than they can when your at a desk “pretending” to work. Multitasking is really task switching, says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount.”

Why is task switching so bad? Or is it? Aren’t you just dividing your efforts to get more done in one day? The problem is, it’s manic- we do it to ourselves, and we really aren’t all that good at it.

All of that sounds great, and makes sense. I think that most of us would like to eliminate the need to multitask if possible. Wouldn’t it be nice to get back on the focus wagon? One thing at a time. Plenty of time for work, friends, exercise, meditation, and creative ventures. Of course. But there are finite hours in the day and if you are a person whose wants to do it all- eliminating things, starts to take out the good stuff.

Let’s think about it. If you are focusing on doing one thing at a time, the thing that is probably most easy to put at the forefront is your job. Your paycheck. That is priority because you have people holding you accountable. Men get it a little easier in this department because there is more room for them to focus at work, and they typically don’t have to worry as much about domestic operations. Women on the other hand, really get the short end of the stick (no pun intended), and we aren’t being sexist. As a women, to look good, feel good, take care of you family, your work, your friendships, and your spiritual life is a completely daunting. Not to mention most employers are completely unsympathetic to the “my kids are sick” excuse, or something of the sort.

So we, as women who are excited about life and all the opportunities, are forced to multitask on a daily basis. And we think we are pretty good at it. Not perfect all the time, but fairly proficient and efficient at the art of multitasking, or task switching.

Multitasking can create time for the healthier things in life. Listening to an online yoga class while we do our work. Taking a walk while your on a conference call. Being able to take your kids to school after checking in on an e-mail or two. Keeping space for the healthier things in life to keep in balance work and stress. This isn’t all bad at all.

On a very global level we see the ingenuity in women to solve the problem of work/life balance that was only getting worse. Women have gone out and created work for themselves. The rise of the female entrepreneur is amazingly inspiring. We meet women everyday who have created businesses to contribute financially to their families all while still being able to be with their families. Motivated to be their own boss so they can take care of things as they need to. This isn’t 1950, it’s 2016 and we’re determined to do it our way.

So what’s the solution? The reality is that most of us do have multitask in order to get through our day. Productivity comes from effective prioritizing, and the ability to focus on one thing at a time. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t accomplish multiple tasks- even in a short period of time. What it means is that we need to reclaim our ability to focus.

Here are some simple solutions to effectively prioritize and shift your persecutive on multitasking:

– Stay off your phone when your eating. Focus on the food, that e-mail can wait.

– Don’t texting while your driving. It’s extremely dangerous.

– Leave the computer out of your bedroom. At the very least, focusing on quality sleep should be priority.

– Write it down. Make written lists so that you can prioritize and focus on one thing at a time.

– Take breaks. Don’t feel guilty about sitting the sun or taking a few minutes to stretch.

– Go on vacation. Schedule real days off to check out. Everything can wait.

– Take some time to focus on exercise or meditate. Even if taking an hour of of the day seems impossible, many studies have shown that exercise increases productivity tremendously.

– Work when you work and play when you play. And in the words of Julia Cameron “Serious art is born from serious play”

It’s 2016. The novelty of the Internet has worn off, social media is in the fold, and we’ve had our indulgence. Now it’s time to edit our usage, become more strategic, and reclaim our time. It’s time to shift our perspective on multitasking and recognize that doing your best means being present in each task that you do, even if you are able to do more in one day than was once possible. Work smarter, play harder, and reclaim the now.

Although there are plenty of articles out there on how bad multitasking is, we find that having the option of the multiple ‘task switch’ exhilarating. Doors opening to get the most we can out of this life, that we only live once. We just need to learn how to balance it. All the tools for multitasking are very new to our brains. We need to learn to set the appropriate boundaries. To find a certain zen. To be fully present in each task, even if there are 100 accomplished at the end of the day.

 

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