The Multi-Tasking Delusion

As women, how often we get applauded (or loaded with more work!) for being “natural” multi-taskers. We take on more and more, even if we don’t really want to, and forget how to say no because we let ourselves be persuaded that we can do everything.

And while I agree that we can do everything, I don’t think we should try to do it all at the same time. We’ve all had one of those days (or lives) when we are doing ten things at once without the benefit of additional arms or hands (or caffeine!). But instead of being proud of how much we “accomplish” at once, I wonder if we might be better served redefining what accomplishment means.

Because getting things done is of course essential to any success. But there is a difference between multi-tasking and making the best use of our time.

When I take an honest assessment of the times I have been a multi-tasking fool, I find this habit is most dangerous when I am trying to do something business-critical and still let myself get pulled into other tasks to get them out of the way. In my attempt to declutter my to-do list, I end up 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 realizing we’re just doing a lot. And doing isn’t the same as accomplishing.

So the next time that multi-tasking siren starts singing us towards distraction, let’s try to steer her to the low value things (walking while chewing gum, ordering groceries while on hold with the broadband company, making social plans while cooking…) and harness our best and our focus for our most important work instead. Lets’s try letting go of multi-tasking and do more uni-tasking instead.

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Rupal Patel logo
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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