Multitasking – Who wins ??

Tranquilizing the Multitasking generation – An eye opener

A very smart question from an MBA student at a recent seminar at their college left me with no other option than to pen down the discussion and share this incidence with all.

Is multitasking a mandatory skill for success??

Whether multitasking is good or bad is really a debatable concept in today’s world. However I have read infinite stories on success where FOCUS has brought results.

As a child when your mother forces you to study, you take your book to the table and with your eyes wide open, you imagine the cricket match that you are going to play after your study time. Now when you actually reach the play ground, you cover yourself with the guilt that you haven’t completed your studies for the examination the next day. So you are neither successful in studies nor in the game. Who wins?? Multitasking or you?? Similar childhood incidences have proved that we have been slaves of multitasking right from childhood.

Now this story :

A disciple and his Master were walking through the forest. The disciple was disturbed by the fact that his mind was in constant unrest.

He asked his Master: “Why most people’s minds are restless, and only a few possess a calm mind? What can one do to still the mind?”

The Master looked at the disciple, smiled and said: “I will tell you a story.

An elephant was standing and picking leaves from a tree. A small fly came, flying and buzzing near his ear. The elephant waved it away with his long ears. Then the fly came again, and the elephant waved it away once more”. This was repeated several times. Then the elephant asked the fly: “Why are you so restless and noisy? Why can’t you stay for a while in one place?” The fly answered: “I am attracted to whatever I see, hear or smell. My five senses pull me constantly in all directions and I cannot resist them. What is your secret? How can you stay so calm and still?” The elephant stopped eating and said: “My five senses do not rule my attention. Whatever I do, I get immersed in it. I don’t not multitask my activities. Now that I am eating, I am completely immersed in eating. In this way I can enjoy my food and chew it better. I rule and control my attention, and not the other way around.”

The disciple’s eyes opened wide and a smile rose on his face. “I understand! If my five senses are in control of my mind and attention, then my mind is in constant unrest. If I am in charge of my five senses and attention, then my mind becomes calm”.

“Yes, that’s right”, answered the Master, “The mind is restless and goes wherever the attention is. Control your attention, and you control your mind”.

A recent study in the US mentions that, cell phone distractions profoundly impair your driving. It’s nothing lesser than driving drunk. Cell-phone talkers are a half-second slower to hit the brakes in emergencies, slower to return to normal speed after an emergency. More than 50% of the visual cues spotted by attentive drivers are missed by cell-phone talkers.

Attempting two tasks simultaneously (like driving and talking on the phone) is essentially very much similar to an office worker who is simultaneously writing a document, checking and responding to e-mail, fielding phone calls, surfing the web and/or engaging in conversations via social networking sites. Yet multitasking is often spoken of with approval, a skill to be cultivated. Multitaskers are admired for their efficiency and seen as people who get things done.

Don’t get me wrong – multitasking would be great, if it existed. But it doesn’t.

If you put on your earplugs and try completing your artwork on your computer, you suddenly notice with surprise that the music has finished and you can’t remember hearing any of it. That happens because we can only concentrate on one thing at a time, when we try to do multiple tasks that require attention, we end up switching between tasks, not doing them simultaneously. That can be termed as task switching – not multitasking. You might do mindless activities at the same time, but not that requires your attention or concentration.

Study says that people who are interrupted – and therefore have to switch their attention back and forth – take 50% longer to accomplish a task, and make up to 50% more errors. I am reminded of an incidence when a boy and a girl were sitting in a hotel discussing something very interesting on their first date. They were amused to discover that even though both knew what they were discussing, it took us 20 minutes to remember what they had been discussing after the waiter had interrupted them for their order. Multi tasking takes a toll on our body by releasing a stress hormone cortisol which will cause health problems such as mental burnout, depression or heart conditions. Multi tasking also greatly increase our accident prone rate.

Electronic gadgets are designed for multitasking, but not the human body perhaps. Even if you’re switching tasks all the time, you get mental /emotional clutters in your head and will distract you to complete the task in front of you. Therefore, you up your stress level, you lose your clarity and your productivity level, and the bottom line is, you put in longer hours and perform poorer. Multitasking is also fatiguing and potentially harmful in terms of performance as well as long-term health. Each time you switch tasks, your brain has to run through a four-step process to disengage the neurons involved in one task and activate the neurons needed for the other.

Ignorant Managers still hunt for people with multitasking experience to join their team in the corporate world. They are masking the fact that they are inviting inferior performers to take charge of the race.

Arjuna would perhaps not be regarded as an ambidextrous master archer had he not focussed on archery in his time. He was an icon of focus and concentration.

Thanks to Sachin Tendulkar for not attempting soccer mastery which has elevated him to the highest ranks in the world of cricket today. He remains focussed.

Many of us think that multitasking is the best way to get through the demands of our working day. This is a myth ! The reality is that multitasking reduces the quality of your work, reduces your ability to focus, and can actually cost you more time.

It’s important to overcome multitasking as soon as you realize you’re doing it. Schedule your day into blocks of time, try to minimize and manage interruptions, and work on improving your concentration.

Controlling your tendency to multitask could have surprising benefits. You probably find that you get more done, feel less stressed, and have more energy at the end of the day.

Wake up, Focus, be watchful and complete life’s tasks one after the other. That’s perhaps the mantra of this new millennium.

Submitted by : Mathew Thomas ( Mentora Champion) is a passionate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and Educational Coach who has worked with a wide range of clients including multinational organisations, education bodies, professional training providers and individuals.

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About Mentora India

Mentora India is a leading Corporate Training Company providing comprehensive training solutions and transformation programs across a wide spectrum of business, industries and Educational Establishments. Mentora India specializes in training in the areas of : Self Development, Public Speaking, Leadership Development, Stress Management, Relationship Management, Customer Service, Communication Skills, Presentation Skills, Time Management, Negotiation Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Managing People etc. with the lead trainer being Mr. Mathew Thomas.
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One Response to Multitasking – Who wins ??

  1. Nitin Raikar says:

    Thanks Mathew!

    Truly a very enlightening article and this will definitely assist me to break free from shackles of Multitasking – the bane of contemporary times. Your articulations with apt illustrations drive home the point on the pitfalls of Multitasking a.k.a Switchtasking!

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