Image credit: David Goehring | Flickr
The mothers that make dinner, arrange tomorrow’s carpool, and help with homework all at the same time are truly remarkable. My mom did that. Does that. She had an uncanny ability to multi-task. A skill we are raised to praise and admire. If I can juggle five things at once, I’ll be more effective. If more effective, more productive. If more productive, more successful. The more successful, the happier. It all makes sense.
Killing two birds with one stone optimizes time and leads to greater efficiency. But does efficiency lead to happiness? I don’t think so.
We seek to maximize efficiency by breaking ourselves up. The more tasks at once, the more we split. Why waste time simply driving when I can call Steve at the same time? But that way I am never 100 percent focused on either the road or Steve. When we multi-task we can’t give ourselves to the present. Instead, we sacrifice now for later with the hopes of future happiness. If I can get two done now, I’ll have more time then.
When I’m in a meeting and responding to emails, I’m not giving either the whole me. Don’t they deserve that? I deserve that. Or at least I want that. But when I do another anything at the same time, I take away from that. There’s a reason I’m there, a reason we’re talking.
Imagine what we could hear, learn and share if we were 100 percent present in a conversation. We multi-task everything. You’re probably multi-tasking right now. Is music playing in the background? Another webpage open? Something is always begging for our attention. How often do we give in?
What if we didn’t? What if we were one-taskers? What if we did one thing at a time? All the time? Instead of talking on the phone at our kid’s soccer game, or watching TV while cooking dinner, or doing anything while doing anything, what if we focused on one thing, one business problem, one conversation?
We’d be more focused, apt, adaptive and therefore better decision makers. The better we can solve problems, the more productive. More successful. More happy. And isn’t that the point?