The Myth of Multitasking

Multitasking 3When I worked in public service and in ministry, especially involved in hiring, it seemed every job description called for the ability to multitask. And every candidate listed multitasking as one of their strengths if not their greatest strength.

Watching how others and I performed our job functions over the last too large number of years, I’ve learned multitasking is a myth. We can really do only one thing at a time if we want it done well. Multitasking is really knowing the status of where everything else on our plate is so we can quickly pick it up when we get back to it.

This requires the ability to manage our own behavior and to allocate our time.

We will make time for things that are important to us.

A To Do list is helpful but I’ve found it’s only a beginning. I need to do two things with my list.Multitasking 5

One, I need to prioritize it. Not everything on it is equally important. Not everything on it needs to be done by me or, perhaps, at all.

As a self-employed writer, my writing must be my highest priority on any To Do list. And it is. Priority items are those things that must be done. My writing is number one. Paying the bills is another priority item. I mark the priority items with a star or the letter A or something similar.

The next level of priority are those items that are necessary but don’t cross the threshold to highest priority. These are marked with the letter B.

The items of lowest importance are those that are not crucial—you guessed—they get the letter C. Over the years I’ve learned someone else can either do these or they don’t need to be done at all.

When I managed a staff, I looked to see which tasks could be delegated to others. Being a one-person organization now, I am the staff. Focusing on the A’s first is more important than ever.

multitasking 4Next I take my now-prioritized To Do list is put the items on my calendar. If I don’t block out time, they won’t get done or they’ll be done too late.

The highest priorities get scheduled first. Recently my wife and I made the decision to adjust my schedule to allow for what we call a Honey Day—a day for us to do things together. It maybe a project around the house, or errands, or something fun.

Multitasking is a MythThe second priorities are scheduled next and they may spill over into next week or later depending on the time I have available.

The lowest priorities don’t get scheduled but I have the list nearby if I find some time to work on them.

At the end of the day, I review the list and reschedule or adjust as necessary.


What tools have you found helpful to keep yourself on track and get stuff done?

7 Responses to The Myth of Multitasking

  1. Jayme Mansfield June 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Thanks, Henry! I agree–the best work gets done when it’s one item at a time. Often, I am told I’m good at multi-tasking. Actually, I believe I simply need to slow down and prioritize. Always an important reminder for a writer…number one is WRITE!

  2. Henry June 18, 2015 at 1:25 am #

    Thanks, Jayme. I appreciate your stopping by. You add a good point–the need to slow down. Sometimes we try to do so many things at once, the stress won’t let us catch our breath. For me, the key is to stop, pray, breathe deep, and make a list.

  3. Linda June 19, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

    Yes, this is quite true. When I used to put together a meal for our family, I felt like I was multitasking, getting one process started like boiling the water for the pasta and chopping veggies for the salad. It was really a process of organization. Also, it didn’t require actually writing the process out first. We don’t always need a tool if our brain isn’t feeling too stressed. But therein lies the rub!

  4. Darlene L. Turner June 19, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Great post, Henry. I love your idea about the Honey Day! Taking time for our family is so important and sometimes when we’re bogged down with deadlines we forget about them. It can be tough trying to balance everything. Thanks for the reminders.

  5. Henry June 19, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by, Darlene. Making time for family can be a hard lesson. Just imagine stepping on the wrong end of a rake. We set up the Honey Day to be that kind of reminder to keep our priorities every day.
    Blessings on you, your family, and your writing.

  6. Diane Bohannan June 30, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

    What a great way to organize a To Do list! I love and live by lists. For me, I have separate lists for kids, house, bills, friends, church events, and writing. I also have a day list that has what needs to be done in order by hour or time of day. That way I see what the day looks like and which things need to happen during business hours. Thanks for the awesome suggestions, Henry!

  7. Henry June 30, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Hey Diane, I’m glad the to do list is helpful.

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