(Updated on 26th Aug, 2021, with lockdown inputs)
I think my daughter hates me.
Perhaps ‘hate’ is a slightly strong word but the sentiment is remarkably similar at times. And the behaviour that puts that belligerent spark in her eyes, is my habit of reeling off a long list of instructions every time I lay eyes on her.
It’s the starting ground for learning basic multitasking, I think.
But the child demonstrates an appalling lack of appreciation for the life-skills that I am trying to instil in her and simply ignores the principle. She simply – like a rather basic computer – executes only the first instruction and blithely ignores all the rest (facepalm).
I find this behaviour rather perplexing & unfamiliar. After all, what is so complex to tell me what she has for homework that day, while putting her dinner dishes in the sink and getting me a glass of water while she’s in the kitchen anyway? What, I ask you?!?
I have come to suspect that this might be because I am a serial multitasker.
Yes, yes, I know. Multitasking is the new poison. Multitasking kills your brain. You will probably go senile a decade earlier if you multitask. Yes, I’ve heard all that multiple times. But I am a working parent. If I don’t multitask, then my world will self-destruct and cease to be. Multitasking helps me keep my sanity in a chaotic world.
For instance, when I balance official conference calls with the crazy schedule of a precocious pre-teen, while simultaneously bolting down my breakfast and chasing the cat off my precious sofa.
Now tell me, which of the above can I afford to drop?
So if like me, you suspect that you too, are a serial multitasker, then simply confirm here with my 3-point checklist
1. You think sequentially about the order of tasks
Multi-taskers instinctively know that there is a natural order to work (essentially, it’s like those problems in operational efficiency that we got in B-school to solve) and that work gets done more efficiently if it is done in a certain order. And that when there is no ordered work flow, then there is confusion and inefficiency. And time gets wasted! The horror of it all!
Anyway, so if your mind naturally functions in a sequential order, for instance, you like to clear out your email inbox before you make your list of things to do for the day – because then you know what additional tasks to include in your work list basis the fires in your email inbox – then you know what I mean. This is because successful multitasking is not random. No, no, no. It’s highly methodical. There is a method. To the madness. Even if it can’t be seen by the uninitiated!
2. But you think in parallel about the performance of tasks!
Now that your list of tasks is made…that is when the real work of multitasking actually begins. Because now you can decide which of your tasks are top priority and which are lower priority and therefore can be coupled together and performed together.
This is complicated, so read carefully!
For instance you can participate in that FYI-only con-call phone call while proofreading the minutes of meeting document!
Or you can write that blog while supervising the robovac and ensuring it doesn’t get stuck under the sofa! On it btw!
And you CAN harangue your child to clean her room, while checking and clearing your email inbox. Simple, just bellow after each email read till she does it!
And this, in my opinion, this is the true magic of multitasking.
Let’s face it, a lot of the tasks that we perform in our daily routine are boring as hell. If we had to do just those, our brains would go numb and we would pass out and die and that would not be helpful for anyone.
However, when we combine these boring, mundane tasks with the interesting high priority tasks, not only do we get them done, we get them done without the resulting boredom and in zero the time. It’s a win-win situation, people!
3. You have a low boredom threshold
I don’t know if this is a correlation or a causation but I have noticed that the most efficient multitaskers are the people who get bored easily. It’s like multitasking keeps them from getting bored by forcing their minds to work at full speed.
Of course, we know from numerous actual research studies that the mind is not really working at full speed while multitasking or even in parallel. Your mind is, in fact, deploying tiny segments of attention in an alternating manner to the various tasks being performed simultaneously – like a multi-threaded computer distributing processor time!
But the rush of achievement, that comes with multitasking, makes us feel as if we have achieved more. And that, right there, is why some of us are serial multi-taskers. Because there is a sense of being more productive, of having achieved more, of having actually done more in that limited time. Of time having been utilised more efficiently.
And so, for those of us who feel that time is running out, this is an addiction we just can’t break!