Multi-tasking, strength or weakness?

I can remember being in a job interview and the question is asked…

“What do you consider to be your strengths?”

At the time, I had always prided myself in a particular strength, one that I always felt had a lot of value in an organization, and made me more efficient in my work. My response on the job interview that day:

I am great at multi-tasking.

When I look back on that job interview, and the response I provided, I realize that I never considered what multi-tasking really means. I know that, on the surface, it means I can do many things at one time.   But today I find myself asking: Is multi-tasking really a strength?  When I dig deeper, what it really means is I work on many things at the same time therefore; I do not give any one task my full and undivided attention.  When did this become a desirable attribute?   Would I value what I just described in an employee?  Heck no!

Is multi-tasking always a strength?

Let’s take a situation I witnessed this morning… I was driving into work and I saw multi-tasking in today’s world at its best.  A young driver was approaching a four way stop while on her cell phone and rolled right out into the intersection as I was making my left turn.  I saw her and no one was hurt and most went through the intersection completely oblivious.  However, this could have played out so differently if I too were multi-tasking while driving. I could have collided with this young driver who no doubt was raised by two multi-tasking parents that taught her the value of getting as much done at once by modeling it.

It had me thinking about the role model I have been for my own daughter who is 16 and driving.  I am sure I have modeled multi-tasking and may have even demanded the same from her at times, “You can put your toys away while you watch your TV show” I can hear myself saying to a toddler giving me grief over the task.  And we wonder why our children’s attention span is so short these days.

feed-your-focusSo I begin to work on a new strength for myself: Focus.

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.” – Unknown

Focus and giving full attention to the tasks I face – driving a car, reading an email, having a conversation, cooking dinner, listening to my kids talk about their day… and so on, you get the point.   Stop living in the blur that was multi-tasking and view things more clearly with undivided attention.  This will be a challenge, but will be worth the effort to be a better role model to my kids and a more productive team member at work.

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