THE MYTH OF THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTITASKING


Many job descriptions these days have a demand that all applicants for that position should be able to, “multitask.” Before you dutifully throw your hat in the ring by inserting the bulleted clause,

  • Possess an uncanny ability to multitask

Into your resume, you would do well to gain an understanding of what multitasking actually means.

Late in the last decade of the last century, there was something called “The Dot Com Bubble.” Many believe this is some sort of oriental cuisine, but it wasn’t. It was a serious economic disaster. The bubble burst when investors and speculators noticed technology stocks were found to have grossly overinflated values. They recognized the true value of all the technologies – essentially nothing.

Thousands were laid off as companies downsized. Those left behind went to work shrouded in guilt. At work, they had to assume the tasks abandoned by their former coworkers. They had to put in 80 hour weeks to keep their companies afloat.

As a result, the nineties generated a class of multitaskers who, while willing to do the often specialized work of others, did it poorly.

Such is one definition of multitasking, and it has its effect on the labour market. If an employer tells a worker that they can’t multitask, they probably won’t even try to learn. I say, “Good for them! Let someone else get some work done for a change!”

Another definition is an ability of a person (or a person’s brain) to handle a number of different tasks at a time. For example you could write a report, answer and talk on the phone, book a school gym for broomball, and make reservations at the local beanery for a heavy date on Saturday. The trouble is, you can’t. You end up with a report with rental rates for broomball in the middle, having a romantic dinner in a school gym, and a broomball team at the beanery shooting balls at Gordon Ramsey, who is probably the only one who actually can multitask. If he makes a mistake, he can blame it on someone else, but he always gets a hug at the end.

John Rey, a management guru from www.about.com also shows that multitasking is bad. He recommends chunking. Chunking means booking off a chunk of time where one can carry out an important task rather than being distracted by the petty follies of day-to-day office work. He recommends closing the door and hanging a sign saying “Genius at work.” (Rey, September 9, 2009.)

I tried that this week. I even added a sign over the door saying “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” It didn’t work. Everyone entered here, watched the genius at work, and waited for the rapture. It never came. I remained focused, and I got my work done – in spite of everyone.

“Man, “ They said. “Are you ever task oriented.” I’ve never seen anyone so focussed before.”

That’s why I always recommend that my clients interested in applying for a position that demands some element of multitasking should marry the term with the term “Focused” they then insert a bulleted phrase:

  • Posses an ability to multitask while maintaining a sense of focus

 

What more could an employer ask.

References

Rey, John (2009) ‘Why multitasking is bad and what you can do that’s better. http://management.about.com/b/2009/09/10/why-multi-tasking-is-bad-and-what-you-can-do-thats-better.htm

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He also does some work as a field Archaeologist. He is also a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine, and the proprietor of The Résumé Doctor in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at  michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia

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3 Responses to “THE MYTH OF THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTITASKING”

  1. energywriter Says:

    Thank you, Mike. Finally a valid reason not to multi-task. I wish I’d known this back when I worked in an office full time. I even went to John Reh’s blog and read it. And, done with great humor as always. keep up the good work.

  2. Trevor Mckirgan Says:

    A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic.

  3. MAINTAINING FOCUS AT WORK « SpinDoctorResumes Says:

    […] recently  went on a rant against the idea of multitasking. There I said that multitasking was a waste of time and energy. I said that ardent applicants […]

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