Multitasking is a Myth | Peter Mehit


We congratulate ourselves on being able to juggle many things at one time. Usually this celebration occurs as we speak to someone over our Bluetooth headset, between bites on a Big Mac while driving. We Twitter while on Facebook, instant message in meetings. Think about other things while we’re doing things.

Then we’re shocked, shocked, when the school proclaims our child has ADHD. Our way of life is ADHD. Soon we’ll be fretting when our kids don’t have it.

We think we can do many things at the same time, but we can’t. It’s simply not true. Human beings can only focus on one thing at a time. Not even computers can do it. They take whatever work needs to be done and break it up into threads so they can utilize tiny time slices on a processor.

People who think they’re good multitaskers, I like to call them delusional, use the reasoning that because they can handle a high volume, chaotic flow of information and requests, they should. But it’s a huge waste of time. Don’t believe it? Check this out.

If you have to answer the same question every day, and it only takes you one minute, that doesn’t seem like a lot of time. But over a year, you’ll answer that question at least 240 times. That’s 240 minutes or four hours per year! What could you do with an extra four hours?

And it’s not just the time that costs you, it’s the interruption. What thought was put on hold to answer that one minute question and will it reappear on the other side, or will become lost in the fog of remembering what you were doing before the interruption?

Boeing likes to describe their highly systematized flight decks as quiet and dark. Why? Because the less non-pertinent information you present a pilot, the fewer mistakes they make. The more time they have to look out the window and avoid mountains or other aircraft; things that could totally ruin their day.

Systems mean control and efficiency. They are the rules, policies and procedures put in place so you, and the people who work with you, don’t have to ask the same questions or figure out how to do things over and over again. When you put systems in your business, you are freed from the routine and you have greater energy to focus on other important things. Like your customers.

Great inventions, works of art, successful businesses were not created by multitaskers but quite the opposite, people of vision and great focus. It’s a sure bet Orville and Wilbur weren’t Twittering their progress on the Wright flyer or Di Vinci wasn’t trying to upload the ‘Last Supper’ onto his Facebook page.

Social media and instant communications are good thing, as long as they don’t crowd out reflection and thought. To do anything, you have to envision it, imagine it. Imagination takes place in a quiet, dark place, on your flight deck, inside your mind.

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