Are You Really Multi-Tasking?

I bet you think you accomplished a lot today. Before you pat yourself on the back, read the description below. Does it sound like your regular work day?

“[M] ulti-taskers [...] tend to get part way into one task, then notice a sticky note by the computer and start working on that one, when the next email ping shows up and they start on that one, when the teleconference starts, etc. You get the idea – the multi-tasker will often sit on the conference call while answering email while working on the budget.”

“Many of these multi-taskers, often wind up at the end of the day with an interesting conflict: whereas a number of tasks have been completed, a handful that were started in the morning, wind up still incomplete at 5:00 pm having been juggled all day long. The person ‘worked’ all day long, is often tired, and feels a bit frustrated.”

Here are some ideas on how to deal with this so-called multi-tasking.

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  • Augie Weiss

    Is that why I have 12 tabs open on this browser and 2 on another? 3 word docs and 2 excel docs open? Why is my computer slow?

    But the reality is we are not computers that can process multiple operations simultaneously. We are more like computers that process one task for a time period, stop start another, stop start another, stop go back to the first and so on. 

    Call it multi-goaling, multi-choreing, or multi-tasking us one brainers can only concentrate our brain on one thing at one time. The duration between jumping from one task to another, and the duration that we can stay on one task is a function of our individual brain chemistry.

    Can I drive, talk on the phone, drink coffee, text, eat a sandwich, listen to the radio, text, talk to a passenger, smoke a cigarette, read email and more, of course.

    Over time we learn to do things subconsciously allowing us to do things with less brain effort. Does this mean we are doing 2 things at once? I does not matter if we are or are not but it may look of feel like we are.

    The question becomes how efficient we are at doing things when doing multiple things. 

    When I drive and talk on the phone I tend to miss exits because I  switched from conscience to sub-conscience driving while I concentrate on talking. We all do this. Some better than others.

    When I subconsciously chew my sandwich I can drive with out missing my exit. It’s picking up, looking at and taking a bite of the sandwich that takes eating to the forefront of my mind and we usually know better and put down our sandwich to take the exit. 

    But who shuts their radio off when they drive or not have conversations with passengers?

    I don’t want to be driven by the driver that can’t talk to me and drive at the same time. “Don’t talk to me I’m driving” is not something I want a driver to tell me.

    Young drivers get into a lot of accidents because they have not developed the ability to switch from task to task or conscience to subconscious quickly or appropriately. I suppose some never will. 

    So the question is… Do Adders multitask better the non-adders?  

    I suppose some do and some don’t but correct my if you disagree but it seems we have a natural ability to switch faster or at least more often than non-adders.

    Everyone is different and every task is different. Medication may allow us to stay on task longer and depending on the job that may be better but sometimes it isn’t. 

    In school the medication my children take allows them to fit into the box called school easier because concentrating on one task is what is needed for lectures or math problems.

    Other situations call for different mentality and “fleet feet” of the brain. Medication for me at least would be a disadvantage in some situations. Maybe I’m lucky in that I seem to have a good memory so I don’t have to tax my brain to much to recall a situation from the past.

    In my last job I had 7 people calling me up as they went from job to job fixing things. They asked how to do things, how much things cost, what was the proper part, what was the history, and a bunch of other things. At the same time customers were calling asking when we would get to their job, can we do a new job, and a dozen other things. 

    Without being able to multitask this job would have required 3 people.

    Another part of the job was doing quotes, looking for product and suppliers and ordering product. These tasks required much more concentration and perseverance. Medication would have been welcome.

    Doing both at a same time was virtually impossible. So as best I could I broke up my day doing small quotes and short product searches between phone calls and larger tasks before and after the phone was busy.

    All this proves is that it does not matter what you call it, using the right tool at the right time for the right job is what we need to be conscience of and things will work out.

    Figuring that out and doing it is the trick.

    As my wife likes to say “Another case of do as I say, not as I do.”

    Sorry about the length of this post. This is more fun “shiny” than the 20 other things on my todo list.

    If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.- Catherine Aird

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      The real question is not speed with which ADHDers may switch from task to task but the quality of the output. Every study out there says that multi-tasking is a self-imposed hoax when the tasks require continual thinking. After driving X number of years you can drive without consciously thinking about every move. Then you get comfortable enough to talk and drive. But can you answer four emails simultaneously? No. But you can drive and answer a phone call (though the call provides a certain level of distraction) because driving can become “automatic.” Answering an email…not automatic.

      If you think about it, the whole concept of multitasking is pure gibberish. You can’t execute multiple tasks where each requires thinking. You can only do one at a time.

      • Augie Weiss

        Agreed. I figure you can walk and chew gum at the same time but you have to concentrate on one. Maybe you could talk but then you stop chewing.

        As far as quality of work. It depends on the work. Or should I say the quality of the output needed.

        I think of it as a switchboard operator. You can talk to only one person at a time but you can have a bunch on hold and still remember who’s on what line and what the conversation was about. Some can handle 1 line, some 2 and some a bunch. Once you hit 3 or 4 the quality goes down.

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