Okay, so I’ve read plenty of articles and sat through several seminars in which the topic of “multi-tasking” was examined. I don’t remember all of the details behind the conclusions presented by the authors and presenters, but I do remember two of the main conclusions: 1) Men aren’t wired to be able to multi-task, and 2) Multi-tasking is actually counter-productive. So why is it that I find myself trying to multi-task all day, everyday?
In deference to my daughter, who is quite right to point out that women generally do most things better than men, I’ll leave conclusion number one as a paradox of the times. I’m not wired to be able to multi-task because I’m a man, but also because I’m a man, I’m too stubborn to let that be reason enough to stop me.
With regards to multi-tasking being less productive than just completing tasks in a linear fashion, let me explain the reality of any given moment through giving you an example of how my multi-tasking efforts come about: I’ll be at my desk getting ready to make a phone call, then as I’m looking up the number, I’ll remember an open document I was working on and open it as I’m waiting for the phone to ring. As the voicemail comes on, I’ll wave somebody into my office whose walking by, holding up my hand and signaling to give me just a second to finish my call. When the auto-voice tells me to leave a message, I’ll remember how hungry I am and dream about what I want for lunch. Then it all comes crashing down: I’ll forget who I was calling and hang up before leaving a message, the person who I waved in looks at me questioningly and I’ll be less effective in delivering my message because I was not fully prepared to talk to them. After scheduling a time, I’ll go to enter it on my computer and remember that darn open document. Result of it all: I forget to write down the appointment, I never made contact with the person whom I was trying to reach in the first place, then I get engrossed in finishing the document and forget to order lunch. A couple of hours later, I got nothing done, because the same pattern repeats itself all the time.
It’s not entirely easy to explain what I mean, but I know you know what I mean. It’s hard to focus on one task, move to the next, and so on. Maybe some people’s lives can be neatly organized and flow in a more linear fashion than mine, but I don’t have much in common with them. I’d love to keep writing on the subject, but I’m also doing five other things at this very minute.
With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite quotes on the topic:
“You can’t do everything. It’s impossible. Something has to give – sometimes it’s you.” Iris Apfel in Iris
“I like to keep busy. I find it more interesting than keeping still.” Michael Sheen in Frost-Nixon
“Chaos is what killed the dinosaurs, darling.” Christian Slater in Heathers