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Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time (Steve Uzzell)
The word multitasking comes from the computer development world and was meant to describe multiple tasks sharing the same resource (the CPU). But this has turned around and is translated today as multiple tasks being done simultaneously by one resource (a person).
This is very misleading as even computer CPUs can only do one piece of code at a time. It just does it so fast, it appears that many tasks are done simultaneously. But it’s just an illusion.
Our society loves the idea of multitasking. You can find it in peoples CV as a great skill and many are proud to be real multitaskers. It’s seen as a great advantage if you can multitask, like driving a car and texting at the same time!
But hold on, that’s not what we meant, right? What do we mean?
Most of us can do multiple things at the same time. We can walk and have a conversation at the same time. We can shave or apply makeup while listening to music on the radio. No problem with that. Where it becomes more difficult is when we try to focus on two things at the same time. That’s when we realize, we can’t. Have you ever spoken to someone who was looking at his phone and you suddenly realized that he stopped listening to you? That happens when the attention was taken by something happening on his phone and he started focusing on it.
The only way we can create the illusion of multitasking is by rapidly switching focus from one thing to another and back. Have you ever tried that? The result will always be a small percentage of the result you could achieve if you fully focus on it.
In the real world and especially in working environments we are constantly bombarded by attention seeking distractions around us. There is the loud conversation in the hall or the ringing phone. Emails are announced via notification systems in regular intervals. It’s really hard today to get some uninterrupted time to focus on one thing. This all becomes even harder if we’re faced with tasks that require our full attention. It’s exhausting. We believe we manage to multitask, but we’re just driving ourselves crazy.
Instead of being proud to be a great multitasker, we should be proud to find ways to fully concentrate on one thing and get it done right. I am sure you’ve heard about good listeners. Why do you think they’re good listeners? Because they focus on you alone and cut everything else out. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than talking to someone who is constantly looking at his phone, right?
If you’re a person who’s always looking for ways to improve and be the best you can at anything you do, you need to learn to focus on one thing only and to shut everything else out. That’s the skill that should be on your CV:
“Able to fully concentrate on the task ahead while shutting out and reducing distractions that would cause a lesser quality of work and result!“.
How does that sound?
Be a focused single tasker and you’ll be the best you can ever be!