Over this long COVID period, many of us have gotten used to multi-tasking. We’ve made endless snacks while hosting conference calls. Taken Zoom with us into our bathrooms (yeah, you know you did!). Worked on product pitches while perfecting our Disney-song pitch. Typed up emails while spending “quality” time with our loved ones.
And while multi-tasking was one of our biggest allies during COVID, I think it’s important to remember that it’s really an enemy wearing a very friendly smile.
Now, I get it. We all wear many hats and sometimes all those hats are screaming to be put on at the same time. But if we are honest with ourselves, can we really say we got 10 things done to the same quality as if we had done each one of those things in turn? And did we really need to do those 10 things all at once anyway?
For me, I know the answer is no. Because there is a massive difference between multi-tasking and making efficient use of our time.
When I take an honest assessment of the times I have been a multi-tasking fool, I find it’s most dangerous when I am trying to do something business-critical but allow myself to get pulled into the low value tasks just to get them out of the way. In my attempt to declutter my to-do list of the mundane, I end diluting or prolonging the important.
And that’s why multi-tasking is a false economy. We delude ourselves into thinking we are getting a lot done, instead of appreciating we’re just doing a lot. And doing isn’t the same as accomplishing. In our crazy go-go-go world, we have lost sight of the importance of true focus. In our endless impatience to get to the end, we have confused quantity with quality.
On this crazy English day, when even the weather seems to be multi-tasking, all I am suggesting is that we get real about the false economy of multi-tasking and try to unitask instead.
And when that multi-tasking siren starts tempting us towards distraction and ruin, let’s at least try to steer her to the low value things (brushing while showering, ordering groceries while walking, making social plans while cooking…) and harness our best and our focus for our most important work instead.