Pretending to multitask
It’s one of my best skills.
One of the things you should know about me is that I like to brag almost constantly about my multitasking skills. In fact, it’s something that I’ve always been very proud of. I believe I can manage several projects and tasks at the same time without any problem, and finish every single one… Eventually.
It’s possible that before you came across this article, you’ve read somewhere else about the misconceptions of multitasking. I myself keep find all different types of books and articles proclaiming that multitasking is not helpful, that it actually does nothing good for your productivity. They also add that the effort you put into managing several tasks at the same time damages your brain.
But how could this be? I knew I could multitask, so I thought naturally that I must be the exception to all of the literature. However, eventually, I had to face the facts and started to wonder: maybe the thing I was most proud of, if was just a lie.
We don’t care, Sarah
Years ago, my first job was in an open-space office and saying that it was a noisy environment is an understatement. I constantly found myself losing focus because of simple stuff like the coffee machine at the end of the room, or even hearing Sarah talking about her weekend. And aside from all this focus-breaking noise, I was also working with a lot of different projects for different managers, that the only thing they had in common is that they wanted everything for yesterday. So this being my first working experience, I thought that jumping through projects, even if it was just to change a font on a flyer, was the perfect solution to make everyone happy.
I felt productive because I always had something to show. So, from then on, I saw multitasking as my mechanism to dealing with all the office noise and the crazy deadlines. In my mind, nothing could affect my workflow and focus, because when Sarah started to talk I was already moving to the next project.
Multitasking & me
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried the all “staying focused on one task at a time” thing. I’ve tried several methods to get me to stop multitasking and to just focus. Meditation, instrumental music, more breaks, you name it… But after a while, I just end up gravitating towards that comfortable zone ruled by too many tasks. My mind just automatically starts to wonder, so much so that at some point I lose total focus and motivation to continue working on that task and I need to change it up. And the same thing goes when I work in one project for the entire week or just a day. I simply don’t like when my brain enters some type of autopilot mode, especially working in the creative field.
I need my mind to always be on, always focus, and the only thing that I believe helps me do that is by multitasking. And just like my first job, when I work in several projects at the same time, I think I look better in the “corporate eyes” and that I contribute that makes me feel somewhat important for the machine to work.
Although I was very confident on my multitasking skills, after reading all that literature, I decided to really look into my workflow and the impact that multitasking has on it. Now, I know for a fact that I get stuff done and pretty well if I do say so myself. But I can’t help but wonder about all those minutes that I spend just staring at my screen, thinking about my next task. The reality is that those minutes can easily turn into hours, specially if you take into consideration the all timely process of starting a new task. Maybe those articles and books had a point.
Looking for an answer
This post isn’t about me doing some focus experiment, or having the Holy Graal that can actually make you successfully multitask. This is about me coming forward with something that I know is damaging my work and productivity that I care so much. I decided I want to work on that. As I said, I did do a couple of experiments already, but without any viable solution. In fact, after all of this I feel more lost than ever before. I have no idea what is my perfect productivity and workflow method at this point. I still think there’s something in handling multiple projects. Maybe the answers lies somewhere in between for me.
As I said, this is not a post with answers or solutions (sorry if you thought that). So why am I writing this? Well, I would like to think that someone out there is reading this article and connecting with it at some level. Maybe this will make you think about your multitasking skills, or simply make you start to doubt that working process you have since forever.
So this is the first step. Hi, my name is Filipa and I think maybe multitasking is not for me.