How To “Save” Time By Multi-Tasking…Yeah Right!

by Vanessa Hayes

in Productivity

Remember that commercial: “This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Questions?”

It was a pretty straight forward anti-drug advertisement demonstrating the awful effects drugs can have on you. Well…dare I compare multi-tasking to drugs? The more you try to do the more “jacked” up you get and the less productive you are. It can be a little dangerous too. Indulge me for a second while I share a story with you…

About a week and a half ago I decided to make a batch of boiled eggs. My daughter absolutely loves them and I thought I’d make about a dozen or so to get us through the week. You see, I’m a pro at making boiled eggs…especially after getting some pointers from lifehacker extraordinaire, Tim Ferris (seriously…you gotta check out my post and video on boiled eggs). Anyhoos…I was rocking and rolling that morning getting my daughter ready for school, packing lunches, straightening up the house and getting prepped for an all day organizing session. I even got dressed in record time (less than 30 min…yeah that’s fast for me) and cleared my email. Then I heard this strange sound…a popping sound. I thought it was nothing and started to walk away but decided I should go check it out. Then I heard another pop! And then I saw this:

Yup…I got so caught up in doing elevendymillion things at once that I totally forgot about the eggs. I mean seriously…have you ever seen burnt boiled eggs? All the water had burned off and the poor eggs were burning in the pot. I had egg splatter everywhere on the stove. And to add insult to injury…my brilliant idea was to immediately put the pot in the sink and run cold water. Bad move. Hot pot + cold water = exploding eggs. Oh yeah..two more eggs exploded and projected themselves over the counter and all over my dining table! I think I actually heard them screaming. And guess what? Instead of being ahead of schedule I ended racing against the clock because I had to clean up the mess. Way to go Vanessa! Nope…not one of my finer moments.

So, if you are a speed demon like me and get an adrenaline rush on the thought of multi-tasking, keep these things in mind:

– If you multi-task, the best you’ll ever be is “good” at things…you’ll never be “great”. By not devoting concentrated effort on a project or task you run the risk of making errors and doing less than stellar work.

– It can take up to 25 minutes to recover from an interruption (phone calls, emails, etc) when working on a task. (University of California at Irvine study).

– It’s estimated extreme multi-tasking costs the U.S. economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity. (New York Times in 2007, Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex)

– Multi-tasking is just an excuse to procrastinate. There..I said it. And I admit it…I’m a recovering procrastinator. I justify putting off doing important, tough and not-so fun projects by doing a ton of little tasks because I think I’m really “getting things done.” Sure it feels great to check 15 tasks off your list but you still have to do that dreaded task…and instead of feeling elated by getting those 15 tasks done, now you’ll feel guilty for not getting the one big important task done first.

– Multi-tasking can be dangerous. Ummm…how many of you busy parents out there tried to drive while handing your kids a snack in the back seat, get the DVD player running for them because they’re screaming for Dora the Explorer, picked up the toys they dropped on the floorboard, fiddled with the navigation unit to make sure you get to the right destination and then tried to answer the phone or text? Uh huh…I know. It’s ok…I won’t tell. Let’s just try not to do that again, ok?

So there…that’s my two cents worth on multi-tasking and how it really doesn’t save you any time. Questions, comments, laughs? Bring em….I can take it ;o)

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