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It’s part of our present day life that we are forced to “multitask”. Skip the technical definition because in today’s street talk, it simply means your ability to do several things at the same time. You see people read mails while grabbing a quick lunch. Dashing off messages while attending meetings and catching up with mails while someone else is talking to them in their places of work. I have even seen a young lady walk through heavy traffic while messaging text on her cell phone- entirely oblivious to the chaos around her.

You might argue that the sheer pace of life compels us to try to do several things at the same time. There’s some truth in what you say. However, when we do more than one thing at any time, something is bound to give. We lose focus.

This is borne out by an article in the New York Times by Alina Tugend. Research indicates that even as you do several tasks together, it is inevitable that you lose focus. While some tasks can be done without too much of a problem, such as listening to music while you do some technical work. There are others which do not lend themselves to multitasking.

David E. Meyer and his colleagues at the University of Michigan established that for all types of tasks, people lost time when they moved back and forth from one task to another. They also noted that it took significantly longer to switch beteen more complicated taks.

So, do we multitask or don’t we? I guess some amount of it is inevitable, perhaps even desirable. Yet, it’s good to be sensitive to what’s happening around us as we multitask. You would, for example, consider me very rude if I were to do many other things while you came to see me in my office, more so when you were paying for my time-and attention.

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This is Post No: 329 of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.