26: Multitasking Gets a Bad Rap
Welcome to episode 26 of Permission to be Messy. I'm your host, JoAnn Krall and today I'm talking all about multitasking.
Before I go into the actual title here, multitasking gets a bad rap. I want to mention that I have been multitasking probably since the day I could speak.
When I look back, to my earliest memories, I can see myself fluttering around doing different things.
And I can tell you at age 56 it hasn't harmed me. Sure. Are there times when, um, my focus is a little bit off? Yes, but overall. I don't think that I would have accomplished so much in my life if I wasn't a multitasker.
So first, what is multitasking? The actual official definition is the performance of more than one task at a time. So technically. when people talk about multitasking, they're really not even talking about multitasking because we're not performing the same task at the same time, unless we're say driving and having a conversation or driving and listening to music, walking and listening to a podcast, eating while watching TV.
So I looked back to see when the term multitasking was first used and. it was first used the year I was born 1966 and it was obviously referring to computers because computers can actually multitask. And it was in a magazine called Datamation.
When reading all about multitasking. different articles, saying how horrible it is for us, how it damages our relationships it affects our memories that affects our health. It hinders our creativity, lowers our job satisfaction, and I could go on and on with all the things that they say it does to us.
I didn't resonate with most of it. In fact for myself when I am working on something I have to switch to another task often in order to spark my creativity. If I'm working on a project for too long. My head starts to spin and yes, you can take breaks and you can set up all that focus time and things like that.
But really when I'm working on one thing for so long. I get bored. I can feel really drained if I'm just sitting there focusing and focusing on one task.
So switching tasks helps my brain and people will say, but the time between tasks, you're wasting time and you're not being as productive. And if you go back a few episodes, you'll see me dropping productive and productivity from my language.
It's actually not true. Because to be honest, if I wasn't switching the tasks. If I wasn't going to another task or if I wasn't checking my phone or if I wasn't doing, I don't know what else I would be getting up. And I would be going to look for food or I would be sitting there daydreaming. Like if cell phones didn't exist and computers didn't exist I'd be off doing something else because that feels healthy for my brain. So yeah, it may take me more time when I get back to the project to get back in the flow. And then there may be wasted time and I'm using air quotes because for me that isn't wasted time. It's actually given my brain a break and then I can move on working with what I'm doing. And I, I often will switch in between tasks just to keep things flowing.
So the theory is that when you multitask your attention is divided between multiple activities. Which can lead to. The decreased ability to concentrate fully on one task. And then your quality of work will suffer.
And you may make more mistakes or overlook important details. Now. This rings true for me. If I'm working on something and I really need to focus in, it needs to be accurate. I have to stay focused. But in the true sense of multitasking, if I'm staying focused on that task in the moment. And then I stop to go do something else. I'm giving my brain that break. And yes, it may take me a few minutes to get back to the original task and to refocus again, but that doesn't mean that I'm not focused.
There's a lot of doom and gloom around this topic. And you know, it's really looking at the extremes And I, I encourage you to think about this. I encourage you to think about whether, you know, where you're multitasking. And if it's detrimental or if it's not,
I came upon a lot of studies that I actually didn't take the time to read yet, but I will read into them because I find it fascinating because I'm wondering if these studies were done, like in a controlled environment where they're asking somebody to take a test and then switch and do something and go back.
Which isn't really real world experience.
It's funny while I was preparing for this episode, I'm reading an article. thinking about what I want to say. And then I would immediately switch and go look at my email and it's not because I'm addicted to looking at my email. I needed my brain to stop thinking about that at the moment.
So that I could refocus on something else. And sometimes that's something else is scrolling through Instagram, looking at puppies, which isn't really a task per se, but it is doing something, but it isn't something that requires brain power. Whereas looking at my email and maybe having to respond to somebody is.
If I sat and I researched for an hour straight, I just would be in complete overwhelm.
In fact sometimes two or three minutes is too much for my brain So, yes. Sometimes multitasking is detrimental .There are situations where people are doing too many things at once. And their brain can handle it. So in that case, it is ineffective.
Some people can't have distractions. They simply can't. Now overcoming those is a whole other story. And I'll talk about that in a future episode. I'm going to touch on it a little bit in a minute, but, just like the overall things that I've seen. But some people value distraction like myself.
Well, I shouldn't Let me back up there. I don't value outside distractions. I don't like it when I'm interrupted by other people, but if my own brain is interrupting me, it's okay. I think that distinction is definitely something to be made.
So technically none of us are really multitasking unless we're doing those things that have been labeled by someone as background tasking. Listening to music while cleaning and things like that.
I encourage you to think about where you might be multitasking.
Maybe, you still need to multitask, but maybe you need to stretch out the time. Maybe you are working on one thing. You need to give yourself some time to focus on that for a little bit longer each time before switching to another task and switching back.
When you're never really, truly focusing on either task. That's really when the issues come in of, making errors not making any progress because I'm not going to use that productivity word anymore. But really not moving forward and making progress because you're
not really focusing on any one given thing, but if you're somebody who can focus. Switch. And then refocus. To me if that's not affecting the quality of your work and what you want to get done. I think it's okay. yeah, things might take you a little bit longer, but is that wrong? who determined how fast things need to get done less. Of course those deadlines involved.
But I think that it's important to give your brain what it needs. Not all tasks and not all brains are created equal. As I said before.
And if you're being hard on yourself, Thinking that, oh, I could be getting so much more done. I need to stop multitasking. and you go on this research journey like I did. And you start to read that, just practice focusing, create a Kanban board, set a timer, remove distractions, time block, meditate. Do all these tips and strategies. And they're not working for you. It could be that you just need to multitask and you're doing okay. You're. you're you're making the progress that you need to be making. So the bottom line for me is. If you're making progress and you don't feel scattered. You feel like you're in a flow and you are moving forward and you're not making mistakes. But you are switching from task to task, then it's probably okay.
And on the flip side, if you're frazzled, you're stressed, you're forgetting things. You're making mistakes.
Then you need to look into why you're doing it and what strategies are actually going to help you.
One thing I know for sure is that being organized and having less clutter is the foundation for getting things done. When you have less physical clutter, digital, clutter, and mental clutter. It is a lot easier to move through your tasks.
And this summer, while I'm working on reorganizing my membership to reopen in the fall. You can still access my, get organized, create your action plan program, it's a program where you can determine the projects that you need to get done.
Set the priority. Discover the obstacles. Find out the resources you need and make a plan going forward. The link is in my show notes and, right now that comes with monthly group coaching calls for as long as I run them. So check that out and that's all I have for you today.
As always I'm wishing you much progress, peace and purpose. And of course the permission to be messy. Thanks for listening.