The Myth of Multitasking


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By Umer Raza

In times of extreme sense of urgency, scarcity and an urge to get most for one self, the possible solution crafted is Multitasking. That is do more in less time, do two or three tasks and do not focus on just one activity. We are told that if you are not capable of handling multiple tasks at one time, you are not good manager. We are told by our bosses, companies and colleagues that because you have the capacity, you must do more tasks. We are told that if we want to retain our jobs we have to multitask. Our trainers taught us that we are the leaders, we are team players, we are efficient, we can stretch and we can achieve more if we do more things all at once. Our so called modern organizations have given us all the tools, gadgets and they ways to stay tuned. They have in fact bought our lives. They pay our salaries, they pay for our petrol, our mobile bills, our internet surfing and our learning, so why not they demand more from us? They are right.

But what about us? Haven’t we sold ourselves very cheap? They wanted us to multitask at work, and we made it a way of life. We want to handle a number of tasks at the same time. We switch on the TV in the morning, we get ready for the office, take our breakfast, download our emails, browse our mobile for twitter-facebook- emails and think that we have achieved more in less time. We fill ourselves with information without knowing anything. We listen to phone, we write an email (while having open dozens of other sites), we talk to the person who just entered our room, we attend meetings and show that we are the busiest, most successful, high achiever corporate employee. The result, we go home tired, exhausted and burned out. We need to have something better for us now, other than the routine work we need a freshness to get back on track. We switch on the TV again, talk to our spouse, have dinner and by the time we are ready to enjoy the home time, the night falls and puts us back on bed to recharge to get ready for same routine the next day. The result of all this swift days routine we lose the touch with ourselves.

The people who have achieved tremendous successes in life, did not bother to have any of such luxuries where they could get tired, exhausted and burned out, and then in order to recapitulate they would not need long hour of sleep. Through the exercise below we have tried to teach you to understand that doing many things at a time, not only increases the time to do an activity, but also increases the stress and reduces the quality of the work.

Just do the exercise given below and we will revert. This is a timed activity so use a stopwatch or wrist watch to note the time of your step 1 and step 2 activities

Step 1: In the first row re copy the phrase “Multitasking is worse than a lie”. After copying the entire phrase switch to the next row and write 1 – 27

M  
1
Time to Complete :

Step 2: In the first row re copy the phrase “Multitasking is worse than a lie”. But now for every letter you write in row one write the corresponding number in the line below.

M  
1
Time to Complete :

 

What is your achievement? Were you able to complete Step 1 or Step 2 in shorter time? If you have done Step 1 in less duration congratulations for your being approving the fact that when you multitask or switch tasks you take more time with greater stress and lesser quality. This is because your brain is incapable of handling multiple tasks all at once effectively (though you may handle tasks but they might not be effective).

However, still there might be many who have done the exercise above, saying, this does not happen in real life. OK let’s go to the real life. Get up and close the door of the office, if you are sitting in a cubical and there is no door, put your phone on silence and keep it away for one hour. Were you able to do any of these for complete one hour? I guess no. If you were able to do so, you have achieved the first step towards a short term concentration. During this time of no phone ringing or no one coming to see you were you more relaxed, did you complete more work and were you able to find the answer to a question, query or problem that otherwise you were unable to focus on.

Short term concentration and long term focus are the two greatest traits of successful people. If you want to be an achiever in your life, you need to prepare a short term concentration and long term focused plan for yourself. These things are not easy under the current world of consistent distractions. Phone ringing, social media buzzing, email popups, TV etc. (not to mention people coming to say hello to you all the time without seeking your permission) all such distractions create a distance between you and achievement. After all why do you run for any change of environment during your annual vacations (if you get any). You change the focus and just concentrate on relaxation, family and beauty of nature. So doing this just once a year for few days rejuvenates you, imagine if you are doing it daily how much relaxed, rejuvenated and connected you may become with life and yourself.

The focus and concentration does not come overnight, but you need to practice yourself to create a habit of shutting off yourself at times that most suit you, to focus on one task at a time. Here are few foremost areas that you can actually work on (with persistence and self-discipline).

Put your mobile on silent for 30 minutes daily during work time and focus on the task at hand. Remember the mobile phones have the option of your calling back. In today’s corporate or busy life, everybody can understand that if you have not picked up the phone you must be busy. (you may exclude the Boss from this list of everyone if you want to). By picking up your phone all the time, every time and wherever you are, you are actually allowing everyone to enter your space all the time and every time. If you are successful in silencing the phone regularly for 30 minutes and focusing on your task, you will soon be able to go beyond this time without even knowing that you have done this. But do remember to call back when you reach back at your phone.

Close the social media site: The face book and twitter in particular and other social media sites in general are the biggest and quickest time killers. These are the site, which do not allow you to keep track of the time. Make a point to close any social media site after 15 minutes of usage. Just stick to the plan. Slowly make a transition to go to social media site, once in two days and then once in four days and then once a week. But remember to click the shut off button of the social media site in 15 minutes.

Do one thing at a time: start to focus on doing one thing at a time e.g. if you are eating focus on eating and not on TV, if you are talking to your kids let the phone ringing, it will help your kid understand that he/she is important and not the phone.

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