I read this piece some time ago about how bad multitaskers could be at delivering quality job, and then, more recently pointed on the same blog, another post on the dangers of actually believing you can multitask.
I was starting to feel badly bitten by those two posts as I considered myself as a good multitasker… then I realised that what I was doing was not multitasking!
As the posts point it, multitasking is the alleged ability to perform two activities at the same time: writing an email while answering the telephone, talking to someone while watching TV… or, apparently in spite of what many British people might believe, using your mobile phone (even hands-freed by a kit) while driving!
Fact is, I am bad at that, but I am also quite relieved that I am probably as bad as anyone else!
What I think I am good at is to have mutiple goals in the same period of time:
- perform general day activity
- implement new features on the web site
- manage the implementation team
- manage client expectations for today’s work
- write letter to bank account manager
- write blog post
- …before the end of the day!
- prepare for application support phase
- organise application audit
- find something to do for New Year’s Eve*
- file company’s accounts
- …all due for varying deadlines…
Concentration can falter when performing only one activity for a prolonged period of time (see on the same subject: Could videogames be good for your children?). Having multiple goals to achieve allows me to have two different brain activities: a concious one, that requires full attention, dedicated to the current task, and a background one, probably not subconcious, that helps me solve or prepare for the next activity.
Often, when I am stalled or bored, I let aside my current activity and engage in a new one. I intentionnally switch contexts to allow my mind to rest on the current subject, but my general productivity to stay at a high level.
How many times were you trying top find an answer to a silly question (”What is the name of this actor that played the allleged cop in this movie I can’t remember the title of, in which the story is told backwards to mimic the memory losses of the main character?**”), let it rest for a while and had a flashback when doing something completely different?
I am going to find out more about that…
* any ideas welcome…. with the following specs: for a couple, in the region of London, a couple hundred quid, and the possibility for the lady to wear a nice dress without looking odd or displaced