One Ear At A Time

Today’s screed comes courtesy of my mom. While I’m doing the writing, she provided the inspiration for some business thinking. Isn’t that what moms do? 

I’m in Florida with my folks. My mom is having a procedure today and they’ll need a little help while she is recuperating. There was a little drama late yesterday about what time we are to go to the hospital. At one point she had a cell phone in one ear and a landline in the other as she tried to speak with a doctor and the doctor’s nurse. These were entirely separate conversations, mind you, and not some mashed-up form of a conference call. Combine that with my dad’s kibbitzing from the couch and it was quite a scene. Her attention was quite divided and it was actually comical listening to the circular conversations and the obvious lack of progress.

I described the scene to someone afterward and they remarked that you really can’t hear either conversation when you’re not focused, which is our business thought today. How many people do you know who claim to be great a multitasking? I’m here to tell you that they’re lying:

The short answer to whether people can really multitask is no. Multitasking is a myth. The human brain can not perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once. Low-level functions like breathing and pumping blood aren’t considered in multitasking, only tasks you have to “think” about. What actually happens when you think you are multitasking is that you are rapidly switching between tasks.

In other words, we really can only pay attention to one ear at a time or one task at a time yet many of us insist on trying to do several contemporaneously. My guess is that each task takes longer than if we’d paid full attention to it and that the quality of the result is lower as well. I’m just as guilty as you are of trying to do too many things at once but I’m going to remember my mom and a phone in each ear as I try to change my ways. You?

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