Multitasking – Let’s Make It Intentional

Multitasking – Need To do Basis

Multitasking has long been seen as a sign of efficiency and organisation; a skill possessed by the kind of person that can have anything thrown at them and still get everything done. Stereotypically, it’s something that women are better at than men (in fact it’s more than just a stereotype, according to this BBC article [link to: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24645100]), but is it necessarily a good thing? ….multitasking

Stereotypes aside, I am definitely the master of multitasking in my home, especially since becoming a mum. Anyone who stays at home looking after a child has to be, otherwise nothing would ever get done. So whereas I can cook for baby, feed baby, and bath baby while also preparing an evening meal and cleaning up the day’s mess, my husband struggles to remember to put a dirty nappy in the bin because he’s now busy holding the baby.

I would categorise the above scenario as ‘need to do’ multitasking. All of the tasks need to be done at some point. Yes, I could cook dinner after putting the baby to bed, but then it will be late and I’ll have less time to myself, so if I can manage to do both at once then why wouldn’t I?

Multitasking – while being entertained

Then there’s the kind of multitasking that pairs a boring, monotonous task with something more entertaining. Who hasn’t, for example, watched TV while doing a household chore in order to make it more enjoyable? Surely nobody would argue that a pile of ironing done in complete silence is any better than a pile completed while catching up on your favourite soap or sitcom.

It’s a third kind of multitasking that I think is a problem, caused by the ever-increasing ubiquity of smartphones.

Multitasking – unnecessary, anti social

These days it’s not uncommon to see a whole table of people at a restaurant with their heads down, eyes fixed on screens, busy Instagramming a photo of their meal or checking what the rest of the world is up to. What should be an enjoyable social event has turned into a sea of distraction, or worse, boredom. And with so many companies providing work phones and expecting employees to be available 24/7, people can’t even get through a film at the cinema without checking their emails.

I’m certainly guilty of quickly looking at my phone while I’m watching a DVD, only to look up a few minutes later and realise that I have missed an important plot twist. And it’s no good asking anyone else what I missed because all my friends were probably doing the same thing.

If we’re choosing to do something for entertainment, why is it so hard to just focus on that one thing? If the DVD is so bad that I need to turn to my phone, why am I even watching it? Handheld technology appears to be ruining our attention spans and creating a kind of multitasking that is detrimental in many ways.

Paolo Cardini makes the case for “monotasking” in his TED talk [link to: https://www.ted.com/talks/paolo_cardini_forget_multitasking_try_monotasking?language=en], and I think he has a point. When was the last time you deliberately gave your full attention to just one task and didn’t let yourself be distracted by anyone or anything else?

For those who can successfully multitask, it’s certainly a valuable skill. But don’t let technology fool you into thinking you are being more productive when in fact you are just being distracted. If you’re going to multitask, do it intentionally.