The lost art of doing one thing at a time According to a paper in the journal BMC Psychology, it is a scientific fact that women are better than men at multi tasking. Of course, that’s just one study and there is much conflicting evidence about who does what best. Whether it’s business people switching between incoming emails, running meetings and dealing with crises; or parents driving their kids to school whilst listening to the radio, running though a spelling test, diffusing an argument and planning tonight’s dinner. Multi tasking is a badge of honour that appears to be increasingly vital in today’s world of conflicting priorities and immediate responses.
Back in the day, concentrating on one thing at a time was the done thing. Who, like me, has fond memories of a TV with 3 channels that you turned over by getting up from your chair and twiddling a button? More importantly, when we watched TV we, well, watched TV, exclusively and whole-heartedly. It was something to be relished, enjoyed and savoured. Cut to today’s world and the chances are that whilst watching TV we are also emailing, tweeting, texting – in fact doing any number of things that didn’t even exist before the 90s or the noughties. Let’s face it, first time round Poldark got our whole-hearted attention. This time, even with the lure of semi naked scything, it’s perfectly normal to maintain a running commentary on Twitter using #Poldark whilst getting one’s weekly fix.
The rules of engagement appear to have changed in the corporate world too. In the old days (I know, I sound about 103….) when you went to a meeting you took a copy of the minutes, the agenda and a notebook. Today’s delegates arrive with a whole host of technology from laptop to mobile phone, allowing them to continue their frenetic multitasking either covertly or entirely openly. Heads down, fingers flying over the keyboard or thumbs jabbing at the screen, their involvement in the meeting may be limited to no more than a physical presence. Which rather begs the question – what’s the point in a meeting that no-one is really involved in? Do we give of our best when we are juggling all sorts of unrelated dilemmas? Is it really possible to concentrate on half a dozen things at a time? And more importantly, is the big stuff passing us by whilst we busily try to quieten the noise of the small stuff?
So here’s a thought. Maybe living in the moment, being in the room, and giving of our all should be the new, aspirational, cutting edge way of leading our lives. 50 is the new 30. Doing one thing at a time is the new multi tasking. Who knows. Perhaps less really is more.