The Wisdom of Multi-tasking
Whatever job we do, the chances are that we’re under so much pressure that we’re expected to, or think we need to, multi task. But how many of us are actually any good at it? And is it an effective approach to a bursting in-tray and numerous demands on our time?
What do we mean by multi-tasking? Doing a number of tasks at the same time! Yes, but how many? And over what time period?
Being good at multi-tasking means knowing what to do when. Easy to say, but not so easy to do! Being able to select the right task at any given moment and to know when to drop that and start something else requires wisdom . . . or at least a high level of awareness:
Responding to that plea for help
Consider a typical example: we’re busy on one job and the phone goes. A colleague wants us to drop everything and see to another ‘problem’. How often do we just react to such a situation depending on who’s asking (or telling) and our reaction to it?
Effective multi-tasking, wise-working, is about responding to such situations, rather than reacting to them. In just a few mindful breaths we can, for example, ascertain that our caller’s ‘problem’ is no more than them panicking. So we, calmly and firmly, help them to see the bigger picture and ‘loosen up’. Within a couple of minutes we’re back at our task. Win-win.
As with good quality, it’s all about ‘fitness for purpose’. For example:
Knowing when to stop
Whether multi-tasking or working normally, a major block to efficient and effective working is perfectionism. Working with wisdom is about recognising when we’ve done enough to satisfy the here and now need.
Wise working, particularly in a multi-tasking environment, is about knowing when to say “No”, not just to your boss or colleague, but to that inner voice. There is no wisdom in reacting to the fear of not getting a job done ‘properly’. On the contrary: when we’re worried our efficiency decreases, because the mind gets caught up in ‘what if . . .’ recriminations. That’s no good for our health or our company’s profits!
So what we need to multi-task effectively is peace of mind: a mind detached from shoulds, fears, expectations, guilt and so on.
At the personal level
An increasing number of us are turning to some form of mindfulness, meditation or self-healing to help achieve a calmer mental state. We may be reasonably successful at obtaining a relaxed mind, free of clamour, on a beautiful mountainside or in the quiet of our bedroom, but in a busy office? This is the paradox of working with wisdom: it’s precisely because it’s so hard to achieve that we most need to adopt a wise approach and develop a tool-box of appropriate practices to help us stay aware and stay present in our day-to-day working lives.
For an organisation
From a corporate perspective, it’s a matter of culture. The wise business recognises the value of reflection and contemplation. For example:
Contemplative Life provides a central hub that brings myriads of contemplative practices and communities under one umbrella and makes it easy for you to find practices of interest and connect with others of like mind.
Working with Wisdom provides mentoring to enhance your personal wise working and assessment and training of your organisation to foster wise working at a corporate, cultural level.
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Dr keith beasley
As an engineer turned life-guide and Quality Assurance expert who did his PhD on 'Transcending Thought', I've seen life from many perspectives. We need them all to even begin to make sense of life . . .
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