I recently read some “expert” saying that people can’t really multitask, that when we try, we do nothing well. I beg to differ, but it might really just be a basic misunderstanding (or disagreement) about what multitasking is.
To me, true multitasking is not always doing more than one thing at the exact same time. If you’re listening to Russian lessons while you do the dishes, it can be. But multitasking is more about interspersing tasks than trying to do too many things.
This morning, I put styling gunk in my hair, filled the teapot with water, came downstairs to set my manuscript to print, went back up and poured the now-hot water over my tea bag, got dressed, checked the printer, unjammed it, fixed my tea (I like it with cream and sugar), dried my hair…and all the while, wrote this post, partly in my head, partly on the Neo between setup tasks. The whole thing took me about half an hour. If I’d done it all in order, I’d only have had time to get myself ready to go to soccer. No printed manuscript to review during warm-up time. No hot tea to start my day. No blog post prepared!
I do a kind of multitasking with my manuscripts, too. It would be ideal to be able to work on one at a time, all the way through, but it never works out that way. Right now, I have final edits on one manuscript and first draft on another while I await the developmental edit from my editor on the one in between. (The developmental edit is when the editor tells you all the ways your book
sucks could be better.) I started a read-through edit on a manuscript I finished earlier this year. And in a few days, I should get the final copyedit on my spring release. When I have multiple projects going on, I have to block out how much I’ll do on each one each day, or I’ll get overrun.
That’s when multitasking goes bad. I confess to having no patience and a low tolerance for unproductive time. I can sometimes be found essentially spinning in circles, abandoning one task for another, then another, and having trouble finishing anything.
What about you? Are you a good multitasker, or would you rather stick to one project until it’s done?