Guest Post by Cathy Laffan
Christopher Avery here. With pleasure I welcome Cathy Laffan again to this blog. Cathy is an innovative executive with a global financial services firm. She shares a love for responsible leadership. Read more about Cathy at the end of her post. Enjoy.
Most of us know what multitasking is – we do it all the time or know someone who does.
There are certainly pros and cons to multitasking.
In my reading, I find that most articles look at it from the perspectives of productivity and time management.
In this two-part blog series, let’s look at multitasking from the perspectives of The Responsibility Process™ and the impact it has on relationships, as well as options for a new way of being.
Over the past few months, I’ve been writing down my experiences with multitasking.
Here is what I’ve come to realize: there are some people for whom multitasking has become such an integral part of the way they operate that they don’t even realize they’re doing it – a clear case of Denial.
A person in denial is no longer aware of the extent of their multitasking. If you confront people by asking them not to multitask while you’re talking to them, they’ll often tell you to go ahead and talk because they can listen and read email at the same time, and yet you can tell they aren’t hearing you at all.
Some people believe that the reason for their multitasking behavior is the fault of someone else – this is where Blame comes in. They’ll assert that they multitask because their boss has assigned them too much work, their kids have too many activities, or their elderly parent is too demanding, and so their multitasking habit is the fault of those other people.
Still others believe that there are valid reasons for their multitasking habit – sounds like Justify to me. I’ve heard these people justify their habit by saying that they do it during boring meetings to make good use of their time, they do it during their kid’s school play because their kid wasn’t on stage yet, or they can text and drive without problem.
Some people are actually aware of their multitasking habit, want to stop, but keep doing it and then berate themselves for their habit – this is Shame at work. If you talk with this person about their habit you’ll hear them say that they know they do it and they want to change, but rather than focusing on options to help them change, they focus on their perceived failures at changing.
Most people that I’ve spoken with about their multitasking habits are convinced that they must multitask because it’s an expectation at work that they always be connected or available – clearly they believe their habit is an Obligation.
These people will tell you that their boss expects certain things, or that the amount of work that is assigned is impossible to complete in the time allowed without multitasking, or that the very nature of today’s work environment requires you to do it to compete with others.
When a multitasker reaches their breaking point, you’ll hear them say that they can’t go on working like this, or they can’t deal with the demands of their personal life and work, and that something must change – people who have reached this point are at Quit.
They see no way out other than to remove something from their life: change jobs, quit their favorite hobby, stop doing community service, and so on. At no point will you hear them consider that multitasking and the feeling of ‘quit’ is actually a signal that it’s time to Confront the situation and Look for the Truth.
Can you see how multitasking is a ‘below the line’ behavior, anything but taking Responsibility?
Are you a multitasker seeking some alternative? Between now and my next blog post, why not try this:
- Raise your awareness of when you multitask and ask yourself why you are doing it. Make a few notes.
- See if you can catch yourself about to multitask and then choose not to do it.
- Note where you are in The Responsibility Process when you are multitasking.
- Don’t judge yourself or make an effort to change just yet, just collect information.
In my next post, we’ll consider the impact of multitasking on relationships and options for choosing a new way of being.
Cathy Laffan is a member of The Leadership Gift™ Program and recently accredited as The Leadership Gift Practitioner. She is a Managing Director with 24 years of experience working for a leading global financial services firm. She has 20 years of experience in the project management field and is certified as a Project Management Professional.
A champion of flexible work arrangements, Cathy has been working remotely full-time for 4 years. Cathy is also a Toastmaster and has earned the Competent Communicator and Competent Leader designations from Toastmasters International.
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