But Officer .... I Was Just Multi-tasking!?!

There’s been a lot of media recently about the dangers of texting while driving. Seems this shouldn’t even be something we need to warn people of average intelligence about.  And yet ..... I do a lot of highway driving in a week, so I have plenty of experience with distracted drivers. And for the record, it’s not just the young people who are guilty. Yes, they may be the ones doing most of the texting, but last week alone I had a couple of businessmen busily thumbing the keys of their smart phones, one guy reading a whole binder of material that was perched on his steering wheel, and the best one yesterday who I watched brush and floss her teeth (spitting into her Tim Horton’s cup ... charming) and then apply make-up.  All at speeds of 100km plus.  So when did operating a few thousand pounds of steel and highly flammable petroleum products at highway speeds while surrounded by others doing the same lose its challenge?  I have a theory.

For the past several years the mantra of business, and I’m as guilty as the next person, has been to promote multi-tasking. It’s right there in the job ads, job descriptions, carefully crafted interview questions, performance reviews and reference checks. Because we really need to know how many plates you can spin on wobbly sticks simultaneously before it all goes horribly wrong. And it will in one way or another, but until then it gives the impression of lower cost and higher value. Plus, it is a bit of a rush.

 So then, why are we so surprised that the urge to multi-task has spilled over into other areas of our lives? After all, it’s a highly valued skill. When I do it well enough in business I’m rewarded. Plus the reason I carry this smart phone or crack-berry at all times is because I’m indispensible – even if it endangers my life and those around me. Up until the crash, I was really adding value.

Ultimately, being only one person there really are only so many things we can do at the same time. Multi-tasking is a fallacy, or at least a misnomer. You may have several projects on the go simultaneously, but you really only focus one by one. So let’s make a deal – multi-task your brains out at work, but when you’re on the road, turn off or at least put your phone on mute, holster your toothbrush and electric shaver, and leave the reading material in your briefcase. Focus on keeping yourself and everyone around you alive. After all .... you’re indispensible.

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