Beware of the multitask trickster!

Discover the side-effects of multitasking too much!

What types of tricks or treats does time play on you? Do you encounter days where time seems to fly by at warp speed yet you don’t recall accomplishing much at all? How much multi-tasking do you do each day? Are you aware of the multitask trickster?

Recall a time when you find yourself in the trance of the multi-task dance. Housework is a good example of multitasking given all the gadgets we have on hand. Dishwashers, washers and dryers, ovens, microwaves, answering machines, electronic recording devices for TV’s, all support the illusion that we can do MORE with LESS effort. True, while washing and drying a load of laundry, our dishwashers can whip-up a clean set of dishes at the same time ovens and microwaves can dirty up more dishes. Such efficiency!

How often do you eat, clean, watch TV, listen to music, answer the phone and send emails all within the same 60 minutes? Is it any wonder we’ve fallen into attention deficit disorders? Such disorders trick our minds into believing we’re accomplishing MORE in less time. True, you might save time by multitasking. How much time do you really save? What’s the cost of that saved-time? Do you spend more time dealing with things because you took short-cuts to begin with?

Here’s a little test to check the results of your multi-tasking skills. The results of this test determines if you’ve been tricked by the multitask trickster!

What’s the test? Track your stop / start time.

While it makes sense to vacuum while the laundry whirls away, does it make sense to take a phone call while composing an email? Why not allow voicemail to take that call? The goal of this test is to awaken an awareness of how you trick yourself into believing you’ve accomplished more than you actually have all in the name of multitasking.

For example, when you stop mid-thought on an email to take a phone call, it most likely takes you a few seconds (at least) to get back in the flow of thought to complete that email. What’s a few seconds you say? Not much? It’s the SUM TOTAL of all those seconds that creates minutes ultimately ending up in hours of time one might use for more satisfying endeavors.

Time to explore just how much time the multitask trickster has tricked you out of. Since time is one our most precious non-renewable resources we have, let’s try a one-day test.

Step 1: pick a day where you normally engage multi-tasking more than usual.

Step 2: on that day, pick a four-hour chunk of time to do this test.

Step 3: during that four hours, every time you interrupt yourself (or intentionally distract yourself) to do something else (bathroom breaks excluded of course), be sure to mark an “X” on a small card or sheet of paper.

Step 4: and the end of the four hours (or when it’s convenient) count up all those “X’s”.

Step 5: multiply the number of “X’s” by 5 (5 seconds, a very conservative amount of time).

Step 6: multiply the sum of Step 5 by 3 to represent an ‘average’ for a typical waking 12 hour day.

Example: the results of your four-hour test show you interrupted your focus on something (or someone) to attend to something (or someone) else 20 times. You should see 20 “X’s” on your card / piece of paper.

Result of Step 4 and 5 = 20 X 5 = 100.

Result of Step 6 = 100 X 3 = 300 300 = 300 seconds 300 seconds = 5 minutes.

While 5 minutes doesn’t seem all that big of deal within a 12 hour day, let’s run your multi-tasking results out for a week!

  • Five minutes a day for seven days results in 35 minutes for that week (7X5=35)
  • 35 minutes a week for an entire year = just a little over 30 hours of time. (Remember, we’re being very conservative in our numbers here!)
  • Imagine enjoying 30 hours of quality time with someone you dearly love. Is that incentive enough to watch out for the multitask trickster?

True, multitasking may inspire you to multitask even more. Kindly be aware how this trickster tricks you into believing you’ve accomplished so much! No doubts you do accomplish a great deal. Once again, is what you accomplish something you’re truly satisfied with? Are the results of your multitasking representative of the quality you seek to provide? Have you asked those who receive the results of your multitasking if they’re satisfied with what you’ve completed?

The trick to quality time management is an awareness of the law of diminishing returns related to all things, including multitasking. At some point, you may experience a day where you start so many things at the same time, NOTHING get’s done to your liking! (Should such a day happen, you’ve just experienced the essence of the law of diminishing returns.) Has that ever happened to you? If so, then you’re well advised to watch out for that multitask trickster!

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