I'm a multi-tasking failure.

Multitasking hell. (Not typical of how I usually work. But some days....

Multitasking hell. (Not typical of how I usually work. But some days....

I've seen my multitasking skills change over time. I used to be able to talk, whip up a batch of cookies all while leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. Ok, that middle one isn't true. ;) 

But the last few years I've seen a change. And it seems that now I am a complete failure at multitasking.  Where once I felt that I could juggle several tasks in a fairly competent manner, now I just suck at them. (Or maybe I was never really that good in the first place?)

But I'm learning. Slowly.

If I need to write a blog post, just do that. Don't check my email, try to brainstorm creative ideas, while trying to listen to my husband explain something about his work AND try to write at the same time.  NOTHING gets done! Certainly not well. Not even half assed. And then I feel all discombobulated ( I love that word!) and frustrated. 

No, I don't have early onset dementia. (Don't you hate those days where you feel like you do?) But what I've learned is that multi-tasking can be incredibly inefficient. Not only from my own experience, but from research, too. (See references below. Not exhaustive, of course, but a place to get you started if this interests you.)


So here's what I'm trying to do. And I'm still practicing at this, almost feeling like a recovering multi-tasker. But when I have something to do that consumes more of my brain than putting the dishes into the cupboard or tying my shoelaces, JUST DO ONE THING!  (Ok, maybe two.) Here are some more tips, too.

Why is it so hard to stop multitasking? Simply put, almost all our technology today encourages multitasking, interruptions, and distractions. It’s hard to recognize how prevalent it is, and even harder to stop it. The misperception that multitasking is a more efficient way to work and the latent fear that you might miss something both contribute to the dire situation today.
— Scott Will, "Being Agile: Eleven Breakthrough Techniques to Keep You from 'Waterfalling Backward' "

As a recovering multi-tasker, I understand how hard this is!

If your partner is talking to you, put down your candy crack game. Cause you know he's going to sound just like Charlie Brown's teacher - " blah meh meh meh, meh blah blah, blah......." while you're focused on your game, reading email, whatever.  

If your kid needs help with a report they are writing, do they have your attention while you're responding to work email while she's telling you her ideas? Your kid is more important. Right?

My own personal favorite is having about five windows open on my computer (email, iMessage, Facebook, Lightroom and the back office portion of my website). Out of all those things, what was I actually trying to work on? Good question!!! Needless to say not much gets accomplished on the kind of day pictured above.

I find that multi-tasking feeds the " squirrel effect" too. That squirrel is all fat and happy as you flit around from task to task to "why am I on Facebook?" Let's focus to get that squirrel nice and skinny by not doing so much at once!

Singular focus. One task. Beautiful simplicity.

Singular focus. One task. Beautiful simplicity.

Now you know that multitasking is inherently inefficient. Forget the idea that it’s somehow an efficient way to work. Instead, adopt this agile mentality: “Stop starting; start finishing!” Figure out what you already have in progress, finish those items that need to be finished (beginning with the most important), and jettison the rest. Only when you have a clean slate should you start working on something new.
— Scott Will, "Being Agile: Eleven Breakthrough Techniques to Keep You from 'Waterfalling Backward' "

A few resources for you

"Why Multitasking Isn't Efficient—Multitasking is a myth: Your brain is actually rapidly switching focus from one task to another."

"Multitasking is Out, Single Tasking is In" 

"Being Agile: Eleven Breathrough Techniques to Keep You from "Waterfalling Backward" or from Amazon. (I haven't read this book yet, only the excerpt from the publisher's website, but it does seem interesting.)

Your Feedback

I'm curious to know how you deal with this. Or do you feel like you get a lot accomplished when you're doing five things at once? What would happen if you did just one thing at a time? (Doing laundry doesn't count because there is too much down time between loads. It's ok to multi-task with this chore. :) Perhaps a 20 minute nap between loads?)


~Barb Kellogg, photographer, tea drinker, and dark chocolate lover