Multitasking!

One of the best pieces of advice that people have sent to me recently was contributed by my partner, Paul. He wrote:

Multitasking is the ability to do many things badly instead of one thing right.

A lot has been written about multitasking, so it’s unlikely that I will say anything new or unusual or particularly insightful about this topic. A quick check on Google returned over five million hits in less than half a second. I took a look at some of those hits, and here’s what I learned from my favorite:

“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”

What this scientist’s research shows is that when we’re multitasking, what we’re really doing is constantly switching our attention from one thing to the next (and then back again). And what this means is that whatever those tasks are, they’re getting fragmented attention. Too much fragmentation—that is, too many tasks at once—and we start losing our ability to be effective, in part because we’re actually wasting energy making all those switches!

The fact of the matter is, the types of tasks that you are trying to do at the same time can make a difference as well. Think about how difficult it would be to write an email message and talk on the phone at the same time. The tasks are so similar that your brain would have difficulty keeping track of two “conversations” at the same time. Tasks like walking in the park while talking to a companion are much easier because they use different parts of the brain.

So what does this have to do with your job search? Well, as I explain in Tip 49, you have to treat your job search as if it were your actual job. And when you’re doing that job, you need to focus. There are a lot of steps, and you need to give them the attention they deserve and do them individually. Don’t read job ads while you fill out application forms. Don’t check your phone while talking to people at a networking. Don’t work on your resume while playing a video game. When it is something important—especially something that may gain or lose a job you want—pay attention to what you’re doing, do it slowly, do it well.

And in case you’re not convinced, try reading an article titled “12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!” You may be surprised by some of the reasons (unless you’re doing other things at the same time, in which case you may totally miss the point)!