The idea of multi-tasking is a widely popular idea. People brag about how much cool stuff they can do all at the same time. The advent of smartphones, tablets, and smart watches make us all feel like multi-tasking Ninjas.
The truth is, it is all a smoke screen. Very rarely do any of us truly multitask. You might move from one thing to another at lightning speed, nano-second stuff, but it is never really simultaneous. It just feels that way.
MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller notes that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” This constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. [Published Jul 15, 2015]
To be able to string a series of activities together to do what we all thought of as multitasking, we load up on menial tasks like opening email or tweets. Then we squeeze some work on the big project in the middle. Or maybe you have a deadline for an important delivery of an assignment, so you try to chip away at that while doing other things.
Either way, none of us are ever really multitasking. The surveys and studies tell us how fooled we were. The human brain only multi-tasks for the key things that help us live (like breathing and keeping our hearts pumping). All the rest is a linear thread of thought and neuron firing inside our heads i.e. you can’t really multitask.
Any effort to try is more about creating performance numbing confusion. Yes, you think you got a bunch of things checked off your to-do list, but in fact, most of what you did had marginal results at best. Example: did you really absorb the message in the email or did you miss a few points causing the sender to have to re-state or clarify your misunderstanding?
I can’t tell you how many times I get feedback from people who clearly never read the original message. Their stated understanding was all wrong. Why? Because they gave the email the brief cursory review, never properly absorbing it before moving on to something else.
Heck, you may be doing that right now with this article. Odds are high that is exactly what you are doing.
Multi-tasking is the opposite of focus. You cannot be fully engaged on a matter when you are already taking in something about another message or task. It’s impossible to do. Why? Because you have not allowed yourself to focus. Therefore, content and substance whizzes by. If a few keywords get recognized, you subconsciously allow them to trigger a standard response.
The response that becomes your reaction is wrong more often than not. The confusion is avoided with a little more focus.
I see far too many owners, executives, and managers taking on tasks that are far below their pay grade. What does that mean? It means doing work that another person should be doing.
Once there was a coaching client who could not delegate very well. Anything they tried giving to a member of the team was taken back and re-worked by the manager before being finalized. If the manager was making $85,000 and the team member was at $40,000, then the manager taking away the task and doing it himself was performing way below his pay grade, by almost half.
This scenario raises two questions.
Entrepreneurs frequently try to cut corners by doing things all themselves. Yes, it might save some dollars, but, as Ben Franklin famously quipped “Are you being penny wise and pound foolish?” You might be saving a buck at the expense of having someone else do something, but what opportunity did you miss by not being available at that moment to handle a bigger, more significant matter?
I was guilty of this myself. At one point in my old company, I used to rush to the mail drop each day. The mail carrier came on a regular basis around 1:00. I’d be waiting because the mail meant we were getting checks from our customers. As the founder/owner, I felt the pressure of being sure there was enough cash in the bank every day. Opening the mail made cash happen.
The irony here is that if I let someone else open the mail, I could be originating more business and hence, more checks coming in. My shortsighted view of things though had me anxiously waiting for the mail. Ridiculous for sure! This choice was way below my perceived pay grade.
A very successful entrepreneur I know has a mantra that has served him well for decades. He learned the value of outsourcing before it was popular. To him, outsourcing is merely allocating paid hours the right way. Again, it’s about the value and proper allocation.
In my friend’s case, he runs a large regional real estate business. His agents can be worth $400 an hour if they are producing lease agreements. But if they spend too much time at a keyboard posting sales funnel details, they are worth more like an admin at $25 an hour. Which would you rather be $400 an hour or $25 an hour? Yes, it can be that extreme.
Think about the things you decide to take on each day. There are 86,400 seconds in the day. That is one universal truth we all share, regardless of station in life. The way you spend those 86,400 seconds makes all the difference in the world for determining your success.
Focus on the big things you need to knock out each day. Do those first. Give them your full attention, no multi-tasking. You can add back the smaller tasks, later. Yet be sure you choose wisely whether to offload menial tasks below your pay grade.[reminder]What are you doing right now that might be below your pay-grade? [/reminder]
Originally posted on DougThorpe.com
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Hi, I am Doug Thorpe. Author, speaker, entrepreneur, and business coach.