Multi-tasking-Saving or Wasting Time and Money For Employers

You’ve heard it before or you even said in a job interview that one of your of your greatest strengths was your ability to multi-task. For most you would assume that this is what employers want to hear by saying you can think and do more than one thing at the same time. Do all employers want an employee that can multi-task or that is driven in this manner?

What is a multi-tasker?

Multitasking is the best performance by an individual of appearing to handle more than one task at the same time.

I believe that humans have different modes in the brain and they can turn them on/off depending on their mood. For the most part I believe that humans turn on a speed that they feel comfortable at to accomplish their goals. Not everyone is wired to be a multi-tasker and no they are not born that way they learn to be this way.

Somehow the brain seems to think like a computer program and is running different programs at the same time yet completing the tasks for each set of goals. You are partially aware of what is going on around you and what you are doing. Have you ever talked to someone who is right in front of you and you have to repeat yourself and they still say, pardon? Likely they were multi-tasking thinking or doing more than one job at the same time whilst zoning out on the non-important things in their surroundings.

The brain picks out all the relevant data and skims through processes enough so that they understand exactly what they need to do. I compare it to reading an article in a newspaper. You should be able to know what an article is about by skimming the first couple lines and the last two. If an article doesn’t provide enough information the process will be incomplete.

I’m not a big multi-tasker at all, in fact most times I can get the job done in a comparable speed as a multi-tasker and with fewer errors. How do I come up with all of this about multi-tasking? Well the lovely Mrs.CBB tells me about how she masters the art (so she thinks).  Mrs.CBB is a multi-tasker extraordinaire but at what cost? She has been rushed to the hospital with burns, cut herself, made critical errors, erased programs, let the kitchen sink over flow just last week etc. I could go on and on, trust me. You can bet that she WILL get the job done though at any cost.

All these insufficient errors were made simply because she was rushing to get more than one job done at the same time. On the other hand she has been able to complete projects, talk on the phone and answer emails faster than a speeding bullet. She has all sorts of wacky ways to remember numbers, people and events that most would never think of. For example she remembers phone numbers but associating the last 4 digits with birth years of people she knows that are close to her. Oddly enough her mother is this way and we’re pretty sure the habit started young by watching her mother even if that was not the intentions of her mother.

I on the other hand like to assess the situation, read all the information, rules and instructions first then proceed with the job. I rarely if ever have any problems or concerns with my work because I am so thorough maybe a bit of a perfectionist (Ok, I am a perfectionist). I’m the type who would be upset because I missed something that I should have caught where she would simply fix it and move on. If that means it takes me more time than the multi-tasker who potentially has errors with their work then so be it. Sometimes Mrs.CBB and I clash when it comes to time frames with getting jobs done around the house. She wanted it done yesterday and I say Is it “time for tea yet”, simply meaning chill out the job will get done. My father is like me, he takes his time with his work so he does it right the first time and to prevent injury.

So time is money and working at the speed of a multi-tasker or a one-track mind I’ll call it can cost you money no matter how you look at it. The question is to the employer which employee can potentially cost you the most overall for the position you are hiring. What are the pro’s and con’s of hiring a multi-tasker as opposed to someone who takes their time but is thorough and makes minimal errors if any.

Multi-tasker

Pro’s

  • Can handle more than one task at the same time
  • Can get the job done fast
  • May not seem as bored as other employees
  • Can achieve progress on many tasks even if it is minimal
  • Ability to deal with hectic situations
  • Adaptable to new technologies and using them simultaneously

Con’s

  • Prone to errors, injury
  • Can cost the company money to repair errors
  • Inattention to detail, skims the surface
  • Not concerned with in-depth learning
  • May leave many tasks incomplete or partially done
  • Does not do well with constant distractions which may cause him/her to become frustrated

It really depends on the company as multi-tasking can be perfect for the right type of tasks or job description. If you worked at Tim Horton’s being a multi-tasker would be ideal as you could pour a coffee with one hand and stir with the other, rather than pour the coffee, set the pot down then stir. That takes more time and the average customer doesn’t want to spend any longer than 20 seconds in line. A long line up might send customers to the next shop that is quicker and can get them in and out which equals lost revenue for the first company. Another great example for a mult-tasker might be a chef who is cooking multiple meals at the same time.

If you were a construction worker for example and your job was to build homes in a reasonable time frame would you really want your guy/girl thinking about building different aspects of the home all at the same time. Probably not, although others may say otherwise. If I owned a company and I realize time is money but quality work and great references is also money I would want my employees to focus on the job at hand.

If my employee is working on a bathroom but still has to finish the kitchen I don’t want him toggling back and forth to try and get them both done at the same time. What happens? Safety Issues, sloppy work, errors and ultimately a tear down if it is not done correctly. This will take more time and lots more money. If  the employee focused on completing the bathroom renovation first then moved on to the kitchen his/her mindset would be singular rather than running rampant with a million thoughts of what to get done first.

How many of your friends or even yourself have looked at homes or watched Holmes on Homes just to hear Mike talk about contractors that rush jobs especially in new builds. They rush the jobs doing a more than one job at the same time and making a mess of things for the new home-owner.

Another example is driving and talking on the cellphone. Although it is now illegal in Canada we have to stop and ask ourselves why? Safety, that’s why. It was killing people, injuring people, causing scads of insurance claims, why? The brain can’t focus on talking on the phone and pay attention to the road at the same time.

According to the Harvard Business Review in 2007 that featured Linda Stone’s idea on “continuous partial attention”  meaning people were continuously scanning for opportunities. Focusing on the road and a conversation uses the same part of the brain. Most people become more involved with their phone conversation potentially resulting in the above mishaps.

So, what I learned is that time is money and a multi-tasker might be suitable for one job and not another depending on the employer. Are women better multi-taskers than men, well that is sure to be a hot fire topic. I can tell you one thing that my wife can take me on any day and come out champion multi-tasker but I can come out as champion perfectionist.

At the end of the day happiness does not come from getting the job done fast or first. Happiness comes from getting the job done right. Mrs. CBB recognizes her weaknesses with-in her strength and now plans less on her agenda so she can prioritize what is best to multi-task and what needs her full in-depth attention.

Are you a multi-tasker?

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Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Boy, it sounds like you and Mrs. CBB are much like my wife and I :). She’s generally doing 20 things at once and running around like her head’s been lopped off. It was an issue of contention for us the first few years of marriage, but we have learned to live with each other and accept the differences.
    All that said, I would call myself a reformed multitasker. I used to try and do as many things as I could at once, but just learned over time that things were not always done to the best of my ability. So, now, I tend to be more like you and take one thing at a time. If the situation calls for multitasking, I can do it…but I’ve found for the best outcome it generally is better to not do 20 things at once.

    • Oh, there are more couples like us out there… that’s good to know. We both understand each other and work together to help each other and if that means I say something to set her straight or vice versa we say it. We don’t take it personally we look at it like someone else is noticing something that we are not. Thanks for dropping in.. Mr.CBB

  2. Because it’s my nature to be a multi-tasker, I tend to gravitate towards work that requires this attribute. That having been said, I recently watched a piece on TED about multitasking and productivity that indicated that allowing workers to focus on one task at a time ultimately results in them achieving more, and better work.

    I think all of us have our attention scattered more than is good for us these days, with a constant barrage of texts, cel phone calls, social networking, etc. Employers seem to be buying into this new, scattered reality more too, requiring that their employees carry smart phones for many positions, interrupting work for face to face meetings or video conferencing, eliminating job positions and then heaping a more, and more varied, tasks upon the shoulders of the remaining employees.

    For people like me, and probably Mrs. CBB as well, too limited a focus can be just as counter-productive as one that is too scattered. We get bored and become inattentive, and when we are inattentive, we overlook things or make silly mistakes.

    Perhaps the trick is to find a balance? And to accept that the right balance for you may not be the right balance for those around you? No easy answers here.

    • You are right, there are no easy answers and employers are wanting their employees to be on board with new technology and social media etc more so than the older generations. Heck, I don’t even own a cell phone. Mrs.CBB has been working on balancing and recognizing when it’s in her best interest to multi-task and when she needs to turn that off. Thanks for your lovely comment. Mr.CBB

  3. I work in tech support and I loathe multi taskers. I have repeat myself over and over and over again with very basic instructions (ie, click the blue button or click the red button) because they are trying to answer a text, scream at a kid in the background and cook dinner. It’s disrespectful. You are saying that paying attention to me (which is funny cause you called me for help) is worth so little that I am gonna do some other things and prioritize your at the bottom of my list. I don’t care if people multitask but if their multitasking affects someone else then, well, you are helping make someone’s lives a living hell. Thanks a lot jerk.

    • Wow, this sounds like one of those “unsent letters” to the customers that call tech support and I answer the phone who are multi-tasking making my job a living hell. I hear ya mate.. life is like a box of chocolates… thanks for dropping in. Mr.CBB

  4. I used to be a big time multi-tasker. I could do a ton of things at the same time…make dinner, make my lunch, use the computer, clean the kitchen, talk on the phone, clip coupons….all at the same time lol. For some reason after I had my son I found it way to difficult to multi-task. Now I just try to do one or two things at a time. I’m happy either way. I hate making mistakes so slowing down works for me. It’s funny what having kids will do to you because I also used to have a great memory. I could memorize a fairly long list and remember it when I went shopping but now I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached! lol Maybe Mrs CBB will slow down when you have kids! :-)

  5. I am like Mrs. CBB. If I don’t have five things going at once, I don’t know what to do. I even hate long drives because I can’t do something else at the same time. It serves me well to a point, but I do tend to be a klutz and maybe that’s why. I never associated the two, but if you brain is far away, you tend to walk into things. If there were only about 3-4 more hours in the day, I could maybe slow down a bit. I’ll work on it.

  6. Mary F Campbell says:

    I am not a multi-tasker at all. I find that when I try to do more than one thing at a time it actually slows progress to a crawl because I have to keep reviewing to remember where I left off. I can work at the speed of light BUT one task at a time. :-D

  7. I would have to say I am a multi-tasker! I can easily do 4-5 things at once, and get them done in a acceptable amount of time. I never stop, always doing something. I can talk on the phone, clean, cook. do laundry, sweep…pretty much all at the same time. It may be a bit hectic while I’m at it, but I surely get the job done.
    I would have to say that I think women do multi-task more so than men…my hubby always says “how can you do all that at the same time”…he can’t even talk on the phone and pay attention when doing something else. LOL Guess it all depends on the person too though!
    Great post!

  8. Multi-tasking….ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh… At my job, sometimes I am literall doing 5 things at once. I am pretty good though- not many errors at all! As I type this, I am also helping a customer on the phone. Ha,ha!

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