Multitasking is still a lie - Christopher S. Penn Blog

Multitasking is still a lie. I’m going to be bold with the following statement:

If you are multitasking, you are either doing work that is trivial or you’re doing a poor job.

Seattle Trip 2010 Day 3

Watching tonight’s martial arts class, there is no multitasking. There is never any multitasking. You can’t afford to. You’ll get a fist in your face and probably have your iSmartDroidPhonePadPro shattered in moments. You are doing something important that requires all of your focus.

When I think to the tasks and things in my day that I can supposedly multitask on, they are trivial. Checking email. Checking Twitter. Surfing the web. These are all tasks that frankly don’t require a lot of attention or effort, and their impact on my day is usually minimal. The outcome is usually unimportant.

When I think to the tasks and things in my day that I have to shut down everything else to focus on, they are things that move the needle. Studying analytics in depth. Reading a book on new business strategies. Coaching a team member or talking to a prospective new customer. Writing a blog post for you to read. These are all tasks that demand my focus, my attention, my energy in order for me to generate the results others expect of me and I expect of myself. If I try to “multitask”, quality suffers. Analyses aren’t as robust or are error-prone. Books don’t get comprehended. These are all or nothing tasks where the outcome is important.

Don’t take my word for it. Look to your own experience, your own work. When you are focused and energized on a task, is it trivial work or is it important? When you are “multitasking”, giving no concerted effort to any one thing, are you doing important stuff or trivial stuff, stuff that doesn’t matter?

Here’s my challenge to you. If you are spending most of your time “multitasking”, you are either doing a poor job or you’re doing unimportant work. Sorry. There’s no other way to put it. How quickly and effectively can you shed or minimize the things that are unimportant so that you can focus and accomplish more of the stuff that should matter?


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