Where do you stand when it comes to multitasking? You may see multitasking as a way of life in today’s reality, or you may see multitasking as a myth: as something people believe they can do, but really can’t. Well, one way or another I agree with you.
Writing a report while listening to my coworker and planning my weekend in the back of my mind cannot really happen at the same time. In slow motion it most likely looks like running between different rooms really fast, pretending I can be in all of them at the same time.
However, there are situations when multitasking absolutely works for me:
Multitasking as an energy booster
I learn Spanish while commuting. If I didn’t listen to anything, I would get super bored on my slow commute to and from work. Also, I’ve tried listening to those Spanish lessons while sitting in my living room and it drove me crazy! I couldn’t focus at all. By doing both, I feel energized. My brain needs to control mostly my vision and movement for driving, so listening and learning new information complements the picture.
Using different parts of my brain keeps me alert.
Try and combine what works for you. Maybe doing jigsaw puzzles or practice your drawing techniques can help you stay focused while listening to a webinar (for this reason I’ve been taking notes for years and even became known as a note-taking extraordinaire). Maybe you can go for a run to think about a solution to the problem you are trying to solve. You would be surprised how different it’ll feel from sitting behind your desk and staring at the excel spreadsheet.
Multitasking as a tension diffuser
Do you dread tough talks? You know, talking to your boss or talking to your teenage daughter about something critical and uncomfortable? I found that if we do something together, like baking or crafts, those talks are way easier. (And the awkward moments can be broken by, “Maybe we should add a little bit more cinnamon”). That’s also why people at work tend to have crucial conversations by the cooler, or during a team event where people are volunteering outside of their regular office environment.
Combining activities help create a comfortable environment.
Trainers do it all the time – they create activities where they push you to an uncomfortable place (role play) by making it a game. A great idea when discussing something sensitive or risky in a workplace is also using a board. Sitting across from each other can make the issue personal. Drawing a picture of what you are talking about makes it more about the information you are discussing and less about your personalities.
Disclaimer: As I was writing this article, I was also petting my dog here and there, especially when I got stuck, my fingers stopped typing, and I went for a frantic search through my head for the right word. It helped me overcome those dreadful moments and I’m sure he didn’t mind. That’s what I call a win-win multitasking solution!
Henrieta Riesco is a founder of Intentional Career. She is all about meaningful conversation to empower professionals on their career journey. After experiences of being a teacher and a corporate trainer in Slovakia, a customer advocate and a training consultant for 10+ years at Microsoft, she is comfortable with calling herself a Career Coach. You can follow Henrieta via Twitter, or via her blog.