Ten minutes ago, here’s what was going on my life: I was watching TV – “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” to be exact. I was being yelled at by my friend, who wants to go play golf. I was surfing the Web, trying to find the perfect man-bag (because those are totally allowed now). And, in the midst of it all, I was “at work,” doing some of the things I had to do for my summer internship.
Now, most productivity experts today would yell at me about this, and tell me that multi-tasking is bad, and that I should be able to pour all of my focus into one thing at a time. I’m not getting everything out of anything, they’d say, and that will ultimately make me less productive and less happy.
I say no way. Multi-tasking, which is increasingly turning into a curse word, is the single most useful tool I’ve adopted in my life. It’s allowed me to get far more done, work faster and in a more interesting way, and let’s be honest – work’s more fun when the TV’s on.
The biggest downside most people point to about multi-tasking, doing more than one thing at a time, is that you can’t pour your focus into the task you’re currently working on. But, the way I see it, who cares? For most of us, some large portion of the things we have to do don’t require our entire focus. For instance: much of my last summer was spent importing, formatting, and uploading data. It was tedious work that I literally could have done in my sleep. Why devote my whole focus to that?
The way multi-tasking works for me is this: when something demands my whole attention and focus, it usually takes it; sometimes it’s something I have to finish right now, and other times it’s just something I’m enjoying and am totally wrapped up in. For everything else, the stuff that doesn’t grab and hold my undying attention, why not do as many of them as possible at the same time?
For a lot of people, multi-tasking is hard – some people just don’t switch back-and-forth easily, and find that they actually take longer to get two things done at the same time than they would to do them back-to-back. If that describes you, don’t multi-task. You’re better off pouring time and effort into one thing at a time, and it’ll help you.
For people like me, though, it’s not only hard to single-task, it’s pointless. If I have to find a picture for an article, does that really require so much brainpower that I can’t flip between that and my favorite LOLcats? Laundry really doesn’t need my full and undivided attention, I’m sure of it.
Don’t fear multi-tasking, as many people are starting to do. In some cases, multi-tasking is bad – writing fiction while watching TV is going to lead to your story sounding an awful lot like that TV show. But in other cases, embrace it – do as many mindless things as possible, all at the same time. That way, there’s more time for the involved, meaningful things that are going to grab and hold your attention anyway.
Are you a multi-tasker? What tips do you have on how to do it well?