Multitasking? No Thank You!
Multitasking? No Thank You!
“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
“The early bird gets the worm.”
These are axioms that we have heard since childhood. At least I have heard them since childhood. We have been programmed to believe that happiness lies in being busy and spinning as many plates at one time as possible. I’m going to let you all in a little secret. I have interviewed thousands of job applicants for thousands of jobs over the years and it was the rarest of those people I remember the most. A traditional series of questions is to ask about strengths and weaknesses to gauge how an individual thinks about themselves (although our evermore politically correct society frowns on the term weaknesses and we now call it areas of improvement or areas of development). Those rare candidates I spoke of earlier would always provide a weakness that was really a strength in disguise, so as to show just how awesome they really wanted me to think they were. The most common answer I have heard goes something like this:
Steve: “you’ve told me about your strengths. Can you provide some examples of areas where you feel you need to improve professionally?”
Self-Perceived Awesome and Zingy Interviewee, or SPAZ: “Well, I feel a weakness of mine is that I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I have a hard time saying no when people ask for help. Sometimes I multitask too much.”
Now, this is usually when the SPAZ flashes just a hint of smug little smile, knowing that they just aced a “catch you” question in a job interview. Truth be told, it is a very good answer…on the surface. However, being the super supreme Jedi interviewer I am, I have a follow up question for the SPAZ.
Steve: “Wow, those really seem like strengths in disguise. Can you provide a few examples of how you have overcome those areas of improvement? Please be as specific as you can.”
This is usually when the smug smile disappears, the chair seems to become noticeably more uncomfortable and the temperature in the room has mysteriously risen 5 to 1000 degrees for our poor SPAZ. It is usually in these moments, our SPAZ realizes that their intention of using a strength as a weakness to show it is really a strength is in fact, really a weakness after all!
How does this example affect us in our Tribe of Up, you may ask? As our tribe leader, I want to take a moment to offer an alternative to being a multitasker. Be a monotasker. A monotasker focuses on what is in front of them at that moment. Remember the concept of Be Here Now? It’s hard to talk to someone who is staring at their phone, or watch or computer screen when trying to hold a conversation. Anyone have a boss, coworker, spouse, employee, or teenager who can attest to how frustrating that can be? Million-dollar question time. Are you any of those to others when they want to talk to you? Are you trying to multitask during a conversation? Well, I say stop the insanity! Being a self-appointed expert at monotasking allows you the freedom to focus on only what is in front of you. It allows you the forgiveness to let some of those plates stop spinning. It allows you the oxygen to breathe and get something done. Then something else. Then something else.
Being a mono, not multitasker is something we all need to work on. The goal should be to work on things like time management, prioritization, and relationship building. But here’s the thing. We should do all those things one at a time. The one thing (or person) that is in front of you will appreciate it. I bet you will get more done. My friends, I truly advocate for more joy in my life. I have found great joy by focusing on 1 thing at a time. Giving my complete focus to a task (or person) and then moving on to whatever is next. Being a monotasker is cool. Remember, don’t be a SPAZ!
Steve Gwisdalla is a career, business and personal coach, specializing in SPAZproofing all things people. He is the Chief Monotasker for BetterPlace Consulting. Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org