I Am Great At Multitasking… Or Am I?

I’m good at walking.  Assuming I started walking around 12 months of age, now I am 672 months of age, and guessing I have averaged a conservative 7,500 steps per day, that equates to 1,836,862,500 steps.

I have walking down.

I’m good at sending and receiving email.  Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in 1971.  Let’s assume that I was slow to catch on and didn’t launch my first email until 20 years later.  Assuming I have sent or received 100 emails per five-day week since 1991 that’s 702,000 emails. And that’s not even counting weekends.

I have email down.

And I am especially good at multitasking.  I can be in my office, listening to a team member describe an excellent idea to serve our patients, all while sneaking a look at my email and checking on the Cubs score on my cell phone.

I have multitasking down.

Or do I?

According to Friederike Fabritius and Hans Hageman in their book “The Leading Brain” multitasking can make tasks take 50 percent longer and with 50 percent more mistakes.  The authors go on to say “most of us grossly overestimate what we are able to do while we’re multitasking.  But study after study proves that they were fundamentally – and sometimes fatally – mistaken.  People who rated themselves expert multitaskers were actually really bad at it.”  Fabritius and Hageman conclude by stating “habitual multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy”.

And it’s not fair to the human being on the other side.

The image on this page was taken in South America.  KSB team members Marissa Frost and Luke Herbert are leading the way down a path.  The spacing of the stones and the severity of the grade required my undivided attention.

I was present.

The situation represented something of an “aha moment” for me, a continent away, at a time that did not feel like a teachable moment.

That walk resulted in the formation of a personal mission statement that reads “Make the time people spend with me the best part of their day.  Be positive, Be Present, and Be Grateful”.

I still fail at delivering on this statement the majority of the time, but I am succeeding more often.

I don’t have it down.  However, I am enjoying the journey.

  • Camery Peterson
    Posted at 08:26h, 09 July Reply

    This is a great reflection and very true. We want to accomplish a lot in a day and multitasking seems to be the way we feel we can get things done. When we look back at what we accomplished in a day it sometimes appears to be very little. I agree we could all follow your personal mission statement. Enjoy people, stop what you are doing for a moment, get the most out of their company and conversation.

  • Lori Jarrett
    Posted at 09:59h, 10 July Reply

    I love your personal mission statement: “Make the time people spend with me the best part of their day. Be positive, Be Present, and Be Grateful”. I see applications for this with the patients we care for, the families we love and the co-workers we respect. I am going to jump on board and try this too!!

  • Alicia Carlson
    Posted at 10:11h, 10 July Reply

    Thank you for sharing, Dave. I also strive to be present to each individual that approaches me every day. I have not yet mastered this either, but am working to be more present to both family and team mates. I struggle being present with my family when I get home from work. I am often distracted by projects, tasks, school, and emails making it difficult to wind down. I am working on taking a technology break for at least one hour each day- wish me luck!

  • Cathy Ferguson-Allen
    Posted at 10:11h, 17 July Reply

    This is a great mission statement, whether it involve clients/patients, employees, colleagues, or family members. In this day and age of too much to do and too little time, it can be difficult to remember. I too will try to accomplish this more often with my interactions.

  • Richard Corder
    Posted at 11:55h, 23 July Reply

    Thanks for sharing your insights and comments Dave; always something to learn from you. I really appreciate the notion of being a “work in progress” and enjoying the journey. I think we all too often find ourselves in a society and system that rewards busy at the cost of present. Thank you!

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