As a Motivational Speaker for the youth, I have had the chance to conduct a lot of interviews. And I also do a workshop on how to ace interviews as a part of my communication training. Every time someone mentions “multi-tasking” as a skill, I am torn between my desire to laugh on their face and inwardly cringe. Talk about mentioning the impossible.

Before we begin, let us understand very crudely, what multi-tasking is. This modern world, cool word – refers to the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. And we will see in a while, why this is total hogwash! People who ear it like a badge of honor – I am sad for you. Really. If you think you can go through your emails while writing a blog, text people at the same time, listen to music and cook along – let me tell you. You really need to wake up now.

As appealing as it sounds, multi-tasking isn’t really possible. Technically, your brain is not capable of multi-tasking, as Dave Crenshaw points out in his 2008 book “The Myth of Multi-Tasking: How ‘Doing it All’ gets Nothing Done”. It may appear to you that you are doing many things together, but you are always focusing on only one. If you think of it – while you are walking and talking, either you can walk properly which means you won’t really pay much attention to the conversation happening. Or you will be talking properly, which means there is a heightened possibility that you might fall in a ditch or something.
Extend it to talking / texting while driving. Why do you think so many accidents happen? If you were really capable of multi-tasking, you would have been able to control. And add a little alcohol into the equation and your brain starts focusing on something totally different.

My point being – technically, it is not possible.

Now let’s talk about the perception of multi-tasking. Now that you think you can multi-task, let me tell you how that’s such a boring thing vis-à-vis focusing on one thing at a time.

When you have a lot of work spread around, your attention gets divided among those. The human mind is very easy to fool. If you tell it that you have to focus on one thing only, it will be happily doing its job giving you great results. The moment you tell it that you are multi-tasking, it will try to focus on 10 things at a time, ultimately being effective at none.

You keep struggling and ultimately you do succeed. But not before you finally decide to wind up things one by one. And there, I rest my case.

So, instead of trying to ace multi-tasking which is like trying to change the course of nature, why don’t you try to train yourself in focusing more? It is not that difficult. When you sit to work, all you have to do is remove all distractions and potential distractors. Once you begin striking off things from your list of things to be done, a wonderful inertia gets built up.

It is amazing how people talk about being productive and excellent multi-taskers in the same sentences often. If you really have to be productive, you need to get things done one at a time, with a 10 times more concentration than when you would have when you were supposedly multi-tasking. And it is not that difficult either. It is just a matter of habit. Instead of spreading out your whole paraphernalia, make a list of to-dos on the basis of their priority.
The thing that has to be done first, do it first. Only indulge in that one thing. Polygamy and many partners may sound cool but monogamy and faithfulness has a lot of character :)

Give it a shot. And if you are worried about paucity of time, don’t be. Most of our time management issues are self-inflicted, imaginary quests for Everest. If you ever sit to calculate, taking things one at a time will actually be faster. Not to mention better too.

Not convinced? Here are some stats! Studies have shown that multi-tasking is the number one reason for loss of workplace productivity. It takes almost 25mins for an average person to return to full focus once they have had a shot of all their distractors – emails, phone calls etc. The time lost while shifting back and forth between tasks (well, you know, because your mind doesn’t multi-task), leads to supreme loss of efficiency. And studies have also shown that workers are more productive when they do things one by one, instead of multi-tasking.

Are you ready to pay that big a price? Besides, it not only kills your work libido but also hampers you as a person. Consistent multi-taskers are known to have lower levels of emotional intelligence because of their inability to focus which leads to reduced self and social awareness. How would you have healthy relationships if you cannot have real, focused conversations with people?

Now that you know how unhealthy multitasking is, why don’t you try to fix this? Create a system. Choose what works for you. If you cannot work in isolation, sit in a park or a library. If you cannot work in silence, play some music. But identify that system soon. So that you can get acclimatized to it pretty soon. A right match between you, your work and the environment in which you work, will add stars to your productivity. All you need to do is, try to control your affinity towards distractions.

Just, avoid being a multi-tasking Ninja. Because in reality, there are no visual effects to create that illusion that everything is happening at the same time. If you look at it from a slow motion perspective, you will know – there is a sequence.

And next time, do not say, “I am good at multi-tasking”. Indeed say, “I am good at focusing on the task at hand and bringing out the best in terms of productivity with the help of my time management skills.” Or something similar. But not multi-tasking. That’s so very boring and such a common silly mistake! Do you wish to be ordinary?

Author's Bio: 

Akash Gautam is a Motivational Speaker, Corporate trainer and blogger based out of India, Dubai and Singapore. Over a career spanning 17 years, he has worked with corporates and students from all over the country over topics like management, leadership training, stress management, relationship management, personal development and much more. His forte is his wit and sarcasm, as he tries to infuse life altering lessons in his fun and inspiring events. He is currently working on his book. When not traveling or speaking, he likes to meditate and read.

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