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.
- 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
- 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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- Strategies to Survive Unemployment, Job Loss, Injury and Disability At Work (canadianbudgetbinder.com)
- Why Some Types of Multi-Tasking Are More Dangerous Than Others (news.softpedia.com)
- Is High-Tech Multitasking Making Us Dangerously Stupid? (psychologytoday.com)
- Newlyweds: How We Avoided Debt on One Income (canadianbudgetbinder.com)
- 5 Reasons You Won’t Get Out of Debt (canadianbudgetbinder.com)
- Why I Don’t Endorse Multi Tasking (sunnysodday.wordpress.com)
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