Everyone’s heard of multitasking and, thanks especially to a recent study by psychologists, it’s widely believed that men aren’t very good at it. That’s partly why Tuesday 24th February 2015 is Single Tasking Day, encouraging people to focus on one task at a time in an attempt to stop us from making a balls-up of everything for a change.
I’m actually quite good at multitasking, but then its meaning is very subjective. The dictionary definition is “the handling of more than one task at the same time by a single person”, but what exactly counts as one task? Being a freelance copywriter and social media manager, I flip between Word and Twitter about half a dozen times for every article I write. This isn’t because I’m rubbish at staying focused; it acts as the mental counterpart of a leg stretch, allowing me to take a very short break whilst still being productive. Some people might lose momentum working to this method, but I find that those thirty seconds away from the document to post a tweet for a client snap my brain awake and get the creativity flowing even stronger.
Having said that, perhaps my work in all of its forms (copywriting, blogging, social media, invoices, emails, campaign management) count as a single task. If this is the case, I’m pretty rubbish at multitasking. My girlfriend popping into my home office to ask a question may shunt me out of the zone, and going for a quick pee can cause quite worrying memory loss. Similarly, if I were doing the gardening, I’d happily cut the grass interspersed with other duties, such as removing cobwebs and cleaning outdoor furniture. But if you asked me to have a think about your marketing campaign whilst I’m doing the gardening, chances are the subsequent ideas would revolve around the theme of grass and flowers. This is fine if you’re a florist, but not so good if I’m working for your corporate law firm (unless of course your client base is solely horticulturalists).
So really it depends on how strict and precise you are when it comes to defining multitasking. Does switching on the kettle in the middle of making a sandwich count? How about talking whilst walking? Whatever the case, I hope you’re happy for your body to breathe and pump blood whilst you’re busy doing other things, otherwise Single Tasking Day will prove a short one.