- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 23 July 2012 18:04, Updated 24 July 2012 06:43
Busy: If you think multitasking is tough on you, spare a thought for those around you.
On the long drive home from Perisher Valley, we were stuck behind a dusty gold Ford, weaving like an old drunk off the road, perilously close to the white poles, then lunging back to safety just in the nick of time.
The rearview mirror could be seen hanging askew, probably knocked sideways by a gesticulating driver. The wing mirror on the passenger’s side was folded in - probably by one of those poles.
After about 10 kilometres of steering clear and holding our collective breaths, the Ford driver pulled off the road and, as we passed, he could be seen in the familiar pose of someone absorbed by what was happening on his phone.
He had been texting.
People fool themselves about their ability to multitask. Research shows that you can’t do two or more things well at the same time. Yes, you may be able to pat your head, rub your tummy and do knee bends at the same time - but try doing it with any sort of proficiency and you will see how hard it is.
Recently, US recruiting expert Dr John Sullivan told a Sydney conference about attending a meeting at a US technology firm where it was expected that everybody would have one eye on the proceedings and the other on the internet the whole time.
Afterwards, when Sullivan was asked what he thought of a new situation that had just occurred, he explained he didn’t know about it because he had been in a meeting.
Sullivan felt he had just become a bit of a museum exhibit in that person’s eyes.
Daniel Gulati, a tech entrepreneur based in New York, is on a crusade of sorts on behalf of those who are disadvantaged by the multitasking of other people.
He is frustrated that when people talk about the perils of multitasking, they focus on the health and productivity of the “offender” not of those around them that have to deal with the fallout.
“The real cost isn’t borne by this person [the multitasker] at all. Rather, it’s an annoying penalty that is unceremoniously dumped on everyone else,” he writes.
“In this way, economists would argue that multitasking generates negative externalities. Like rising insurance premiums or pollution from a neighbour’s chimney, its costly effects are burdened on the nearby people who had no say in the matter — the ignored dinner partner, the irritated bystanders, the disappointed team members.”
Gulati suggests some ways of reforming the multitasker:
■ Call them out: “You can help by simply bringing attention to their multitasking habit and how damaging their behaviour is becoming”.
■ Schedule a new time: Suggest a time when you might have their full attention - after hours might do the trick.
■ Walk out: “Sending this powerful signal shows you’re willing to play hardball and will pique the attention of even the most-seasoned multitasker. Of course, walking out on your boss probably isn’t the best career option, so disengage in other ways”.
Daniel Gulati is a coauthor of the new book Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders.