Good at Multitasking! Fact or Fiction?

Have you ever been a position or looked for a job where it was stated that multitasking was required?  A few years back I was in a position where I worked at a call center.  I would take inbound calls, ask a few questions and perform a few tasks, and then asked the pharmacy to reprocess the claim.  Our calls were monitored and we received quality scores.  Based on the scores, length of the calls and number of calls, we would receive what they called Pay For Performance pay or a bonus each month.  Speed and efficiency was the key and our quality scores were dependent on saying the right things or asking the right questions.  One mistake on a monitored call could lead to a poor score.  Of course a poor score meant the end of that possible bonus.  Too many low scores could lead to termination.



My problem always arose when a supervisor would come by my work station.  He/She would speak to us, while on the phone, and expected an answer.  We were not to put the pharmacy on hold and we were to continue speaking.  I had a difficult time doing this and was told I needed to learn to multitask. It seemed others on my team were able to do this, and it caused me to question if my age was a factor.


 So is it fact or fiction that we can multitask?

I can have the television on and post to Facebook or schedule out Tweets.  In fact, when I watch TV and am not doing something else at the same time, I find myself extremely bored with TV.  I can figure out the ending quickly and it holds no real surprises.  (Which I think is the reason why I enjoy shows like Scandal so much)  How can we respond to an email while talking on the phone or cook dinner while watching television?  It is possible in some instances to do two things at the same time.


 What is not possible is to concentrate on two tasks at once.  Click to Tweet

Real multitasking forces your brain to switch back and forth very quickly from one task to another.  We would be able to do this if the brain could transition seamlessly from one job to the next.  The problem is the brain does not have this ability.



Multitasking forces you to pay a mental price each time you interrupt one job to go to another.  Click to Tweet

In psychology terms, this mental price is called switching the cost.



Switching cost is the disruption in performance we experience when we switch our attention from one task to another.  A study done in 2003 and published in the International Journal of Information Management found that a typical person checks email once every five minutes and that on average, it takes 64 seconds to resume to the previous task after checking your email.    So in reality, checking email alone we typically waste one out of every six minutes.

The myth of multitasking is that it will make you more effective. Click to Tweet

In reality, focus is what makes the difference.  Click to Tweet



The word multitasking first appeared in 1965 when IBM report talking about the capabilities of its latest computer.  Click to Tweet

It was not until the 1960’s before people were trying to wear the word “multitasking” like a badge of honor.       Click to Tweet

The problem is that people think that it is better to busy at all things instead of great at one thing.  Click to Tweet

Find your Anchor Task



Doing more things does not drive faster or better results.  Click to Tweet

Doing better drives better results.  Click to Tweet

Even more accurately, doing one thing at our best can drive better results


Mastery requires focus and consistency     Click to Tweet

I have not mastered the art of focus and concentration yet, but I am working at it really hard.   I recently read an article that said to concentrate on one main task each day.  Currently my schedule has different things scheduled for 90 minute time slots.  At the end of the week, it is my hope that I will have made major strides in each of the different area


The article went on to say that choosing one priority, is that it naturally guides your behavior by forcing you to organize your life around that one responsibility.  Your priority becomes an anchor task, the mainstay that holds the rest of your day in place.  If things get crazy, there is no debate about what not to do.  The decision of what is urgent and important has already been made.

Say No to Being Busy

As a society, we have fallen into a trap of business, overworking ourselves.  Click to Tweet

Somehow we have taken all of this activity as a sign that what we are doing is meaningful.  The underlying thought becomes “ I am so busy and look at what I am able to accomplish.  If I can accomplish all of this work, I must be important.”

Anyone that has been on any of my social media sites knows I am always trying to motivate and encourage people.  I believe that every person has worth.  There is danger in believing that being busy is what drives meaning into our lives.   Our lives are about so much more than that.

Meaning comes from contributing something of value to your corner of the universe.  The more I study people, who are accomplishing this, the more I notice that these people have a remarkable willingness to say NO to distractions and focus on one thing.



I believe it is time we start saying No to being busy and say yes to being committed to the craft that we wish to master.

What is the one priority that anchors your life or work every day?  Click to Tweet

If you commit to nothing you will be distracted by everything.         Click to Tweet

There is a bestselling book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism. In the book, he explains how the word priority has shifted its meaning over time.

The word was first used in the 1400’s and it meant “one” or “prior” thing.  It was a singular word.

In the 1900’s, we pluralized the term and started talking about priorities as if we could change the world by bending reality.  Click to Tweet

“Priority”  began to take on the meaning of having many multiple things first. Click to Tweet

My question is, can we actually have many multiple things first?  Do we actually accomplish more by having one thing as a priority?


My challenge to you is to break apart your schedules and planners, like mine, that have several things scheduled every day with no real level of importance.  Determine your priority (in the truest sense of the word) and begin to live your life that way.  Give yourself one main task for each day and complete that task.  Then begin the next task.  I am also going to try this challenge and will write another blog on the results in one month.  Hopefully you have great success, but regardless, it will undoubtedly lead to some great discussions.   Maybe saying no and learning what is most important will help each of us to live our lives a little more fully.


 What are the things that are most important to you?  Do you really make them a priority?  Does this ring true for you?  Let me know in the comments below

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