“Multitasking is, counterintuitively, a lazy business ethic.”
Whew. The topic of multitasking. This is a topic that often makes my head explode when discussing. I have a thought, a sub thought, another sub thought and, well, the mind is in what is often called the multi task thought mode. Well. If that happens, as we all know, you are actually thinking ‘nothing’ because nothing has clarity.
Yet. Conventional wisdom in today’s business world tells us that multitasking is a good thing.
In fact. It encourages it.
I mean, c’mon, what is better than having an employee successfully handling and completing multiple tasks at once? Well. Here is the problem .
This attitude is causing everyone to burn out not only because it is impossible to do but it is also lowering the quality of work which inevitably leads to more management pressure to do ‘as much’, but better. So everyone is burning out because they are getting squeezed by what they think they are supposed to do, the stuff they want to do to prove they are capable, the stuff they believe they have to do and what the management is suggesting is normal to do.
Wow. That is a shitload of squeezing.
And worse , while it may seem slightly counterintuitive, the faux multitasking is not actually creating more productivity.
Even worse ? Encouraging multitasking is actually a reflection of lazy business management. In fact. If your goal is to increase productivity, then multitasking is actually counterproductive .
Ok. Before everyone sends me emails telling me I am full of shit here me out on why I believe this:
– It takes up more of your time
Rather than saving you time, multitasking actually costs time. Uh. oh. There is nothing inherently quicker or more streamlined about switching back and forth between tasks or trying to handle multiple tasks at once. Realistically all you are doing is dividing your attention … and a divided attention does not work as quickly as a focused one.
Honest. No kidding. This is a truth. Do one task at a time and you’ll see much better results.
– It will cause you to make more mistakes
A big component of productivity is not simply getting something done, but getting it doneright. What’s the point in completing several projects if you’re just going to have to go back to fix the mistakes you made because you weren’t giving each component your undivided attention? So, not only will multitasking cause your work to take longer, but the quality will suffer as well.
– Thinking is impeded
Multitasking simply lowers the quality of work under the insidious guise of quantity of work
Why? You just don’t make the time to think thru shit which eliminates any opportunity to think 5 steps ahead and maybe come up with a preemptive type solution and be creative with an idea or solution or response. The amount of things impedes the brain from thinking ‘space.’ Look. Some people are really really good at focusing and aligning disparate variables & pieces of information in a short period of time.
Most of us schmucks need some time to do such a thing.
Most of us schmucks can simply respond to what is in front of us in a short period of time.
Most of us schmucks have our thinking smothered by the sheer weight of all the tasks we are trying to do at the same time.
Most people’s brains simply need some time to noodle over what is being asked to offer any solution beyond simply ‘here is what needs to be done or said to move on.’
– creates more stress rather than sense of completion
Multitasking is supposed to be a way to get work done faster with some thought of relaxation afterwards .
Wrong. You cannot relax even after you’re finished everything you have supposedly checked off the list for 2 reasons:
In your heart of hearts you know you didn’t invest enough time & energy on something and it will come back at some point to haunt you.
Even worse? Because you tried to do so many things you have no idea which of the things will inevitably come crashing back. Dealing with too many things at once is just, well, fucking stressful. And most of us suck at winding down from stress. It has a habit of sticking around longer than we want or expect.
In fact. By the time you actually can start winding down your need to multitask kicks in again.
– your prioritization muscle never gets a work out
Look. Certain things should take precedence over others. Multitaskers don’t do that. They simply ram their way through doing in the moment.
They elect to never make a decision on what deserves more attention by treating everything equally within the moment. Obviously this translates into the fact more important tasks can suffer while time is devoted to much less important things.
And … less obviously? Prioritizing can help you figure out where you should really invest your energy & focus & effort.
The big truth. Or. Here is ‘the big lie’ multitaskers tell themselves.
– There isn’t really any such thing as multitasking
The bottom line is that multitasking doesn’t even really exist. What you’re really doing when you multitask is switching from one task to another. It is actually called serial tasking.
To conclude. Multitasking is bullshit.
And yet managers and organizations continue to encourage it. Encouraging it in the workplace is counterproductive, poor management and actually creates a crappy organizational culture .
Why does this stupid shit continue?
Because we have become an outcome culture.
Lazy managers don’t have to really work to cultivate thinking and smart doing if they simply focus on ‘here is what has been completed’ lists to justify their value.
Quantity versus quality. That is what management has become. And that is, frankly, lazy management style.
It takes work as a manager to teach and encourage focus on prioritization and doing one thing well at a time and to understand his creates a much more productive environment.
To be clear. I am not encouraging “slow productivity”, I am simply encouraging “allocating right amount of time productivity.”
This is an art. Uh oh. Teaching ‘art’ to employees is difficult.
And difficult to measure.
Oh shit. Now we know why so many crappy managers encourage multitasking in business.
Multitasking is, counter-intuitively, a lazy business ethic.
Think about that.
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This post previously published on Enlightened Conflict and is republished with the permission of the author.