Monday, January 31, 2011

Multitasking—Not as Efficient as it Seems

economysepI used to be a pretty good multitasker.

Maybe I was too good and got overconfident. I started juggling even more at a time.

Three times last week, though, I was in a real-time conversation with someone—twice via Twitter and once on the phone and I completely messed up.

The last time I messed up, I was proofing something I’d written (blog post, not my book), talking to my husband (not, I’m sure, very coherently), listening for a weather update on the television so I’d know what the children should wear for school, and messaging a writer on Twitter.

I got a returned DM on Twitter, “Sorry?” the tweeter said. “That link doesn’t relate to our conversation.”

Really? I frowned and looked at it. Sure enough, it was truncated gobbledygook from something else I was working on.

I apologized to the guy I was tweeting saying, “I’m working on 20 things at once.”

He was nice enough not to say, “And doing none of them well.” :) But I bet he was thinking it…and so was I.

I stopped everything I was doing, and focused on the one priority I really had at the moment. And that was the point that my morning started going smoothly.

Some things I can multitask. I can vacuum and write a book in my head. I can cook supper and come up with a blog post. I can exercise and work on plot lines.

Where it seems like it goes haywire for me is 1)when I try to interact with people and do something else simultaneously and 2) when I do more than one thing on the computer at once.

One thing I’ve never done is multitask around my children. They deserve my full attention—besides, kids will call you on it. But everyone else deserves my full attention, too—including my poor husband who has probably gotten completely used to incoherent sentences from me.

So here’s a new resolution for me—one thing at a time, if at all possible. And if I’m having a conversation with you, I’ll pay full attention (that means no writing the book in my head when we’re talking! Even if I think you’d make a nice character for my book.)

Are you a multitasker? How is it working for you? Are there some things you can multitask better than others?