Multi-Tasking: Is it even possible?

Multi-Tasking: Is it even possible?

Everyday we are faced with a seemingly never-ending To Do list. So many things to accomplish…. ALL Important… Not enough time in the day! Sound familiar? It is this very issue that pushes us to adopt the practice of “multi-tasking”.

mul·ti·task
/ˈməltēˌtask,ˈməlˌtīˌtask/

verb
1. (of a person) deal with more than one task at the same time.
2. (of a computer) execute more than one program or task simultaneously.
— https://www.google.com/search?q=Dictionary

The question is… Is multi-tasking even possible?

At its very core, multi-tasking means that we are doing multiple things within the same moment of time. That means we are dividing our attention to equally address more than one thing simultaneously. Let’s dig into that idea…

Imagine you are cooking a meal. You must prepare your ingredients, prepare them according to the recipe, and then serve your dish. Seems like you could do several things simultaneously, right? Envision this To Do list:

  1. Chop vegetables

  2. Measure spices

  3. Gather cooking tools (pans, spoon, mixing bowls, etc.)

  4. Read the recipe

  5. Follow the recipe (Totally different than just reading it!)

  6. Cook

  7. Get the plates

  8. Serve

Is it physically possible to chop the veggies AND measure the spices in the very same moment? Yes - but only if you have someone helping you. It’s then that you can divide and conquer. However, if its just you in the kitchen, you have to take each activity one at a time.

If this is the case, why do we always consider ourselves as multi-taskers?

Think back to a recent job interview you may have had. Did you promote the fact that you can accomplish more than one thing at a time? Did you proclaim yourself to be a master multi-tasker? Did the job post call for someone who can do many things at the same time?

Are we selling something we can’t truly deliver?

Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain
— Nancy K. Napier Ph.D. Creativity Without Borders (Psychology Today)

Identifying the Myth: Now we know multi-tasking, in its truest sense, is not possible. How should we promote our skills then?

Let’s go back to that cooking example. Perhaps the right message is to share that you are someone who can manage multiple priorities concurrently. Highlight that you build teams that make multi-tasking a reality. It is only through the simultaneous work of multiple experts, we achieve great things in the same moment in time.

I build teams that make multi-tasking a reality. Together we accomplish great things!

With this simple switch in approach, you have just demonstrated that you know how to assess requirements, prioritize, delegate, organize and achieve real results. You have just given yourself a major promotion — from Doer to Director. If you put yourself in the hiring manager’s role, who would you rather have on your team?

Next time someone asks you to multi-task, work with them to identify what they actually need and what is truly possible. Through this conversation you can minimize stress and set achievable expectations.

You CAN do it ALL…. Just not all at once

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