On a scale of 1-10, how present do people think you are?

Cindy JobsUncategorized

I talk to my mom nearly every evening. Since we talk so frequently, there’s not much new stuff going on in either our lives that requires a ton of concentration to communicate around. So I find myself doing other things during our conversations.

Not long ago, she mentioned that she knows I multi-task while I talk to her. Ouch. She was aware that I was not fully present for our conversations. My mom is 90. I don’t know how many more conversations I’m going to have with her, so I’ve made a renewed commitment to not multi-task during our discussions.

Then, I started to analyze where else I find myself “multi-tasking.”

  1.  I surf the net while watching TV.
  2.  Both my husband and I frequently engaged with our iPads during conversations with each other.
  3.  I iron while I’m listening to podcasts.
  4.  I do the dishes while talking to my mom.
  5.  I write e-mails while I’m on the phone.

Some might say I’m multi-tasking. But by now, we all should be aware that our brains do not multi-task, they task-switch task.  Our brains switch tasks quickly, so we might think we are multi-tasking, but we aren’t. 

Multi-tasking is the mistaken belief that when we do two or more things at the same time we get them done faster and better,” explains productivity psychologist Dr. Melissa Gratias. What we commonly refer to as multi-tasking is better described as task-switching because the brain is not capable of intently focusing on two serious tasks at the same time. This reality means that one or both tasks are inevitably going to suffer.” (www.howstuffworks.com)

Although a log of the information about multi-tasking is productivity-related, the toll on personal relationships is high also. Using my examples:

  1.  I surf the net while watching TV: Neither get my attention, so I frequently have to back TV shows up to recapture the gist of the plot. Frustrating for both my husband and me.
  2.  Both my husband and I frequently engage with our iPads during conversations with each other: On more than on occasion, I’ve asked the same question multiple times “When are you out of town again?” “Where are you going next week?” “When are we leaving for the cabin?” Having to re-request information cases irritation.
  3.  I iron while I’m listening to podcasts:  Besides the obvious potential of burning myself or forgetting to iron one of the two sleeves, I’m not retaining most of the podcast information.
  4.  I do the dishes while talking to my mom: We’ve kinda covered this one, but knowing that it is harder for Mom to hear me while I’m doing dishes and that I might miss that all-important “I’ve just not been feeling well” side-mention breaks my heart.
  5.  I write e-mails while I’m on the phone:  The impact of this process should be evident. Not only is my head not in the game for either the e-mail or the phone conversation, but it also takes WAY more time to get an effective e-mail written while task-switching than it would if I focused on one or the other.

To what’s my takeaway? I’m going to focus on being more present, not just for personal interactions, but for business processes too. For example, I set my Time Timer for 60-minutes (the time I normally budget for blog posts) and didn’t check my e-mail, texts, or answer the phone. Guess what? I finished the blog post in 40 minutes!

Where might you be task-switching that is causing either productivity delays or damaging your relationships?

What’s your intention for change?


Cindy Jobs

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