Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TDS Day1: Multitasking

Just in case you're wondering what the TDS stands for, that's twenty-one days of something. If I can meet the challenge there'll be 20 more of these posts titled the same way. There is no guarantee I will not post on a subject I've posted on before, or even repeat myself word for word on something I've written before.  The older I get the more I realize I'm a repeater, and tend to put out the same information more than once :o) In any event today is day 1 of the 21 days of something and I'd like to talk (write/blog) to you a little bit about multitasking.

Back in the old days before we were all very clever and had a sorts of electronic devices, we all called it something else. Doing 20 things at once, too many irons in the fire, having a full plate, etc. Way back then, before we were all very smart we had much more flowery and descriptive ways of saying we had WAY too many things going on at the same time. Now we all just settle on that one word and most of us pretend we're really good at multitasking.

Truth be told, I think we're all full of baloney. Oh sure, I have no doubt there are a handful of personality types out there who actually do quite well juggling numerous tasks at once, but overall I think we just take on more than we can handle and do the best we can to get it all done. Some years ago I read an article by some very clever person who did a social experiment on the actual effectiveness of multitasking and his results were dismal. In his conclusion he found that the vast majority of people (the percentage was very high, something like 92%) cannot multitask at all but instead what they do is make an effort at it, and instead of doing a 100% job at one thing they do a 75% job at several things and find that this is good enough. In other words, as a society we've more or less compromised in a huge way because we don't want to admit that we're not really doing well at this multitasking business. (I wish I could source quote my material on this but it's been so many years now I don't know if I could find that same article even if I multitasked till my fingers fell off). But is it really good enough?

Can you imagine going in for surgery and your surgical team doing a 75% job, patting each other on the back and saying "good job, team!" Or how about on your wedding day, would it be okay if the bride only walked down 75% of the aisle and stopped there? Maybe when you're on vacation you go 75% of the way and stop wherever you are and say "okay kids, we're gonna have fun now!" (even if you're in the middle of nowhere). Of course those sound like unrealistic extremes but the reality of it is, a lot of us are doing the very same thing every day with really important matters. Whether it's on the job, or with family or other relationships. We have all these "things" we think we need to be doing (when in reality, most of them don't need to be taking up our time at all, and I think we all know it, whether we want to admit it or not) and to somehow fit it all in, we trim down the standard for doing things 100% and give much less of ourselves to the important things.

Not too long ago I came to the realization that I absolutely stink at multitasking. Oh sure, like everyone else I really thought I was doing a bang up job of it but time after time little things were brough to my attention that were like little red flags with the message "hey lady, you stink at multitasking!" written on them. To be honest, it took several years of these red flags because I'm just about as stubborn as they come, but the message finally hit home and I decided enough was enough. It's different for everyone but I believe electronic communication/entertainment is the biggest culprit. Whether it's the computer, laptop, DS, cell phone, ipod or whatever happens to be in your hand and sucking your brain into a tiny little screen.

For me it was the computer. I no longer keep my eyes on my screen (or my hands on my keyboard) if my husband or one of my kids is talking to me. I stop, turn, look them in the face and genuinely listen to them. This one was the worst for me, and I owe my older daughters a monumental apology for doing it to them for so many years because I did stink at it, I just didn't know it. Of course you can hear someone when they're talking to you but you really don't hear them, and they know you're really not giving them your undivided attention. While the audio of their message goes into your ears you're not actually a part of the conversation they wanted or needed to have with you. I have no doubt that Football Widows know exactly how this feels when football is on and talking to Mr. Husband is like talking to a robot. He might turn and acknowledge you for a second or two but his attention immediately turns back to the tv and his head and his eyes follow it. Sure he hears you, but he's not listening to you and you know it. He knows it too, but the game is on...

I'm sure I could give numerous examples of lousy multitasking but those who are doing it, and stink at it, probably need to be convicted themselves instead of reading what I have to say about it. I do hope if anyone reading sees themselves in what I've said, today will be THEIR day to say enough is enough, and start giving 100% again rather than trimming down the standard to fit more junk in.

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