“We can do fifty things at once and ‘save time,’ but is multitasking mania really an effective long-term survival response? As I stand in my kitchen in the midst of chaos, can I hear the fear in my mother’s voice when she expresses concerns about paying for her heating bill? Can I read my client’s e-mail well enough to recognize the faulty logic he’s applied to the new project? Can I sense my teenager’s anxiety about going to a late-night party where peer pressure is dangerously intense? I can see what I’ve accomplished on my to-do-list, but can I see what I’m missing in my overstimulated state?~Mary LoVerde, in I Used to Have a Handle on Life But It Broke
I am confident in my belief that most of us will multitask some, no matter how many times we’re told it’s not good or effective. We’ve conditioned ourselves–or we’ve been culturally conditioned–to think that doing just one thing at a time is old-fashioned and unproductive. However, I am simultaneously hopeful that many of us will also take significant steps to rein in our habits of doing many things at once because it’s not what creates the quality of life for which most of us yearn.
Multitasking robs us of the precious moments of our lives because we’re not present in the moment when we’re doing more than one thing at a time. No one ever thinks to themselves, “Man, I bet I would enjoy love-making more if I could watch my favorite TV show at the same time,” or “It would be much more rewarding to pay bills while eating dinner with my kids.” The reason we don’t say those things is because we know that multitasking keeps us from truly experiencing the moment we’re in. . .and that it prevents us from truly connecting with those sharing the moments with us.
“Conducting a symphony while using a Blackberry will result in doing both poorly. Nothing worthwhile can be done well while simultaneously conducting another task. Thus, whenever we multitask, we are choosing to be mediocre.”~ Lance Secretan, Multitasking and the Decline of Brilliance
So, I encourage you–and remind myself–to get off the multitasking mule train and reclaim your power to be deliberate and focused. (If you have difficulty narrowing your attention, check out my “Bye bye busyness” article for tips on how to simplify your life and shorten your “to do” list.) Be proud of your ability to do one thing at a time with love, attention, intention, and steadfastness. You’ll still get plenty done. . .and you’ll notice plenty of payoffs that multitaskers only dream of.