Well this one certainly can’t.
And I see no reason to apologise for it or to feel any less competent than anyone else because I can’t multitask, or – to use a more expensive-sounding term (i.e. one that a “consultant” would use)- “context switch.”
Why do people think it is such a boon and why do people slap themselves heartily on the back as they profess to be multitaskers? It’s like it is some kind of competition. “I can multitask better than you, which clearly makes me utterly indispensable and the most productive person EVER.”
Multitasking just means that nothing gets done properly. So don’t come to me telling me that on one hand, you never make mistakes (seriously, someone said that to me the other day) and that you are a perfectionist who gives 110% (whatever the hell that means), and on the other that you are a born multitasker. Frankly – tripe!
I used to context switch (well, I happen to quite like this particular piece of “consultant-speak”) all day. I had tens of windows open on my desktop; I’d juggle phone calls and emails, copying and scanning, data-processing and student liaison, lesson preparation and observations, timetabling and staff meetings, report-writing and budget control and all the while being smiley and friendly and available and sympathetic and funny and lovely and I was crap at all of it. Not only that, but by the end of the day I was doing everything at half-speed while my brain tried to catch up and I went home feeling wretched because all those windows on my desktop were still open and I hadn’t completed anything. Multitasking? Pffft! Ridiculous notion.
If you want to do something properly and to the very best of your ability, have enough respect for the task and your own expertise to devote all your attention to it. Distractions can be many and varied, but are easy enough to ignore or avoid. Say, “No”, slow down and – to use the latest “mot du jour” – be mindful. That means focus on what you are doing, watch yourself doing it and don’t let it go until it is done properly. And then – and for me this is the most important and the most useful piece of advice – PAUSE. Pause between each activity – to clear and refocus your mind: lift your eyes and your head, stretch, stand up, anything to make a break between one thing and the next. I’m not saying you’ll become more productive and wickedly focussed and perfect and everyone’s favourite person, but you’ll go home having completed some of your tasks and they’ll be done well and you’ll feel better.