Photo by Aleks Dorohovich on Unsplash

Can you really do two things at once? Pay your head and rub your belly? Chew gum and walk? Talk on the phone and listen for instructions at the same time? Do math calculations and spelling words at the same time? Listening to a podcast or audiobook and writing a blog? Text and drive?

What makes you think you can pay attention to your phone and to the conversation that you are having in person with your <peer,partner,children,parents,boss>?

How often do you find yourself when you are in a meeting and your peer is on their phone or computer, not engaged in the meeting, and they are asked a question but unable to reconcile the question that is being asked of them?

When hiring for positions in a previous life, a resume with multitasking as a skill indicated was commonplace. Additionally, when asking the person to give their introduction this was a common response.

I am a great multitasker!


I can find myself multitasking, able to do multiple things at once.

Sorry, that is an incorrect answer. Try again.

In the rare instances where multitasking was not in their introduction, I would follow with a probing question of “do you believe in multitasking?” The responses above were similar with greater embellishment.

Describe multitasking in your own words. I’ll wait. I am currently multitasking, writing a new blog entry while I wait for your response anyway. Or if you cannot describe it well enough, try this test. Or this one.

Multitasking is spreading your attention across multiple tasks with less effectiveness, less efficiency, and probably with lower quality than expected. Multitasking is when the person multitasking divides their attention across multiple tasks, not finishing any, and poorly moving any to a conclusion with any effectiveness.

Multitasking is a fallacy. It is merely a description of someone incapable of having the discipline to focus and remain focused on a single task until completion or unable to continue until more information or input is needed to proceed.

Multitasking is a series of single tasks where the operator switches between tasks multiple times throughout the working period. Every time you switch between each of the tasks, believing you are being efficient, flitting from task to task, you are invariably wasting time through switching costs. Each of the opportunities for you to be disciplined by remaining on task is lost every time you switch from task to task. Stop doing that.

Lean manufacturing focuses on one piece flow. People believe batch processing is more efficient. That is only the case in unique circumstances, as one-piece flow really does work out to be faster and more efficient in creating more work in less time than multitasking or batch processing. Do your work in a one-piece flow. You need to be focused and disciplined to remain on task and work through until it is complete. Or until you are unable to work any additional tasks for that particular action.

Stop multitasking. Now.

Go forth and be brilliant.

altMBA alumnus. In and around manufacturing and business for more than 25 years in different levels of leadership. Always trying to poke at the status quo.

altMBA alumnus. In and around manufacturing and business for more than 25 years in different levels of leadership. Always trying to poke at the status quo.