Not, can you do more of it but can you not do it at all.
I hear this a lot… “I’m great at multi-tasking”. Or, I see this a lot, people are focused on something (like an electronic screen of sorts) while someone is speaking to them. Yes, we all CAN multi-task but is it really serving you and those around you. Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating article about what we hear at cocktail parties. Scientists at the University of California in San Francisco have published findings that underscore why people aren’t good at multitasking. Our brains are wired for “selective attention” and can focus on only one thing at a time.
I know this sounds crazy. I know what you’re thinking; it’s not very practical to be focusing on one thing. We have so much to do, and so little time. But are we losing the impact of our experiences and relationships. We’re going wide but not very deep. I feel as though our experiences are becoming shallower and more surface since that’s about all we can devote to them when multi-tasking.
A common concern I hear is that people don’t feel supported both at work and at home. I wonder how much of that is people not feeling seen and heard. When you sit down with someone and you are focusing on other things, it sends a signal. I’m really not that interested. I have better things to do. You’re not that important. In most cases we’re doing this to the people who are closest to us. While I don’t believe this is meant to be an intentional slight, it does have the same impact.
How many times do you ask someone to repeat what they just said? How often do you struggle to remember something because you were focusing on so many things? How often do you finish eating and realize that you haven’t really tasted or enjoyed your food? How often do drive somewhere while talking on the phone and have no recollection of your trip? The list goes on.
So what am I asking, take the multi-tasking challenge. For one week, yes one week, create focus around one person or one task at a time. When talking with someone you engage with him or her. When on a conference call, turn away from your computer or other electronic device. When having a meal, stop and enjoy your food and those you’re dining with.
I’ll be curious to hear what shifts for you. Are you generating more enjoyment from your interactions? Are people responding differently to you? Are you more efficient because you’re focused?
One week, is that too much to ask.