Time-management philosophies have done amazing things for the productivity of the world. In the last three decades we have gone from “too many things to do and not enough time to do them” to “too many things to do, but I know how to cram them into my schedule.” Fascinating progress.
One of the tools borne out of traditional time-management madness is multitasking. Described by an unnamed success guru as, “find all of the things on your to-do list that can be done simultaneously and schedule them all at once.”
Now I will admit that I am wired for one thing at a time, so the idea of stacking a bunch of tasks up to be done at all at once makes my head hurt. I’m more inclined to think of numerous desired results and find one task that makes them reality. For example:
- kids playing outside safely
- wife happy
- well maintained home
- physical activity for me
- Mow the yard
I’m simple like that. But the idea of multitasking has created more trouble than it’s worth for us as a society. It isn’t that there aren’t people who can do multiple tasks at the same time…
- Walk and chew gum
- Fold laundry and talk on the phone with a friend
- Nod intelligently at your boss while thinking about how to get out early
- Ride a unicycle while juggling brightly colored balls (for my professional clown friends)
And yes, there are other tasks that can be done at the same time, but they are typically tasks that do not require individual thought. They are semi-automatic and are done without concentration because we’ve repeated them so often. If anything shifts in required brain power, everything else must stop.
Think of the folding laundry while talking on the phone example. As soon as my friend says something that catches me off guard or requires a thoughtful response…my hands stop, my posture changes, and I momentarily forget about the towel I just dropped.
Once I’ve answered or processed my part of the conversation I go back to folding and the semiconscious state. If this is how you go through your days and most of your tasks can be done without real thought, go for it. But I’d like to suggest that most of us have things in our lives that do require more thought and deserve our honest performance.
Instead of having two or more tasks open and demanding in front of us, narrow it down to one and get it done. Then move to the next one and get it done. This is simple stuff but it is seldom done. In our societal rush to GET MORE DONE, we’ve allowed the idea of getting things done right to slip away.
Give yourself a break and allow things to be done one at a time and give them your full attention. You’ll find your ability to get more done actually increases and the number of things you have to re-do decrease. Oh…and when you start getting the same things done in less time than usual… try leaving that time open instead of rushing to find something new to shove in there. (Maybe that’s a post for another time.)
Be your best,