Why the Myth of Multitasking will Finally Die in the Zombie Apocalypse

Why the Myth of Multitasking will Finally Die in the Zombie Apocalypse image zombie 172x300Why the Myth of Multitasking will Finally Die in the Zombie Apoca …

Today, your workday came and went without any real productivity. This amazes you because, well, multitasking is supposed to mean getting more done, right? Wrong.

At quitting time, your to-do lists remain unchecked. Every time you attempt to multitask, it feels like you unlock another distraction, which takes you an average of 23 minutes to recover from, studies say. These distractions can steal up to 20 percent of your thinking power. This multitasking stuff is draining your brainpower and your time and leaving you looking like an incompetent schmuck.

That is, until the impending zombie apocalypse befalls the planet.

The uprising of the undead apocalypse often gets a bad rap. Sure, there is the inevitable breakdown of society, the dearth of basic life needs, and, of course, the wandering, moaning, flesh-eating hordes. But with all this upheaval comes some unexpected benefits. Multitasking, for one, will die faster than a red-shirted ensign.

To get you looking forward to the zombie apocalypse, here are the biggest reasons you won’t have to pretend that multitasking is productive once the undead take over:

1. In the apocalypse, no one can call you

Or text you. Or send Facebook status updates right to your smartphone. Or Instagram photos of their sister’s chinchilla. What started off as one of the great inventions of the modern age now bombards you with calls, texts, and social updates just as you’re about to begin a vital task.

And you answer the phone, because you’re a proud multitasker and you can handle a little text while you’re trying to wrap up that presentation. What you won’t admit is that this distraction has brought your brain to a screeching halt. Someone could slip a chorus line of leprechauns into your presentation and you wouldn’t even notice. And this is bad on a number of levels.

How you can deal with it now

Just say no. Learn to control the urge to answer that call or reply to that text. Another solution is to train your contacts to communicate with you in another format, one that’s easier to return to later. When this isn’t possible, schedule as many of your phone calls as possible. Also, know which callers are going to be worthwhile and which ones tend to bring only distractions. Answer calls from the first group; send the second group to voicemail and get to them later.

How you’ll deal with it during zombie apocalypse

You won’t have to. Infrastructure is usually one of the first things to go when the undead arrive, including phone networks. No phone lines, no pesky phone calls, texts, or social networks. And mobile multitasking suffers a mortal blow.

2. Fewer people equal fewer drop-ins

This might be one of the most excusable instances of multitasking. Someone stops by your cube to talk to you right as you’re about to send off an important email. With the demands of courtesy and productivity tugging you in separate directions, you make the decision to talk. But even while you’re trying to talk to them, you are typing a seriously incoherent message to the VP of sales.

Face-to-face communication requires a greeting and tons of warm up before you actually get to the real topic of discussion. Once you get past the meat, there is more small talk, bad jokes, and clumsy farewells before you actually part ways. For the two minutes of meaningful conversation you had, you had eight more minutes of fluff and lost productivity.

Of course, if you didn’t talk about anything meaningful, all ten minutes were fluff. Now it’s time to rewrite all that gibberish you just wrote…

How you can deal with it now

If you work in a cubicle, your options are limited. You can send strong hints that drop-ins are no longer acceptable, but this could hurt your social standing. You can start working in the custodial closet or at home, but people might start forgetting you work with them.

It seems the optimal solution is to restrict drop-ins by encouraging visitors to reach out to you through electronic means, while also making yourself available for important face-to-face opportunities. Not an easy line to walk.

How to deal with it during zombie apocalypse

Things get much simpler once the zombies wipe out most of the population. Visitors fall into two buckets: living or undead. If living, you must ascertain whether they’re good or bad. If they are living and good, consider hearing them out. If undead or alive and bad, dispatch immediately.

3. People will be too busy boarding up windows to hold meetings

These have become the go-to form of communication for those who want to seem busy. Too bad most professional meetings contain all factors that make drop-in visits so unproductive, multiplied by however many folks have been invited.

And then, during the meeting, you try to actually get something done by sending off a few emails on the sly. Once again, however, your mind is split, this time between your emails and the bad jokes and the posturing. Like a juggler with too many balls in the air, you’re bound to drop something. At the least, your multitasking gets you a disapproving glare from a manager. At the worst, word spreads that you don’t take meetings—and therefore, your job—seriously. Multitasking has landed you on the naughty list.

How you can deal with it now

Replace as many meetings as possible with a more efficient way of keeping your team informed. More rudimentary ways of accomplishing this include shared spreadsheets or whiteboards. For smaller, less complex teams, this might be enough to keep everyone informed.

For larger teams or more complex projects, on the other hand, just maintaining the spreadsheet might require a small team. In this case, you might need a software solution robust enough to capture the team’s work data while making that data available to the whole team.

Keep in mind: there is a place for meetings. They work really well for building your team’s unity and reminding everyone that you’re “all in this together.” The trick is getting rid of meetings that only convey information. There are better ways to do that.

How to deal with it during zombie apocalypse

Even the undead can’t fully eradicate this distraction. Survivors have to have their tribal councils and argue about supplies and escape plans, but you can deal with these in the same way. Find alternate ways to keep your team of survivors informed and use meetings only as a way to bond. Then get back to the endless work of fending off zombies.

4. People who get preoccupied with redundant, manual tasks won’t survive

Like a virus, work processes have a way of mutating beyond their original scope and simplicity into something ugly and uncontrollable. Redundant tasks and layers of extra paperwork become the norm. To keep up with this onslaught of redundancies, people turn to multitasking.

The problem with this scenario is, these changes to work processes may have increased control, but the multitasking they create is killing your team’s focus and productivity. Instead of focusing on making your company better, they’re busy jumping through hoops.

How you can deal with it now

You don’t need to be told to streamline your processes. That’s Work Management 101. But it’s easier said than done. Creating another spreadsheet will only make matters worse. Your best hope lies in work management software solutions that eliminate the need for redundant manual tasks.

How to deal with it during zombie apocalypse

The apocalypse has a way of teaching folks how to focus on the most important things. Recording and controlling things gets less important than doing things. Survival belongs to the quick and the efficient. Those people who let themselves get distracted by redundant tasks will likely not survive.

So sorry, Multitasking! Your days are numbered. Work managers, if you survive the initial onslaught, your life is going to improve dramatically. Until then, continue the fight against the myth of multitasking.

Sources:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324339204578173252223022388.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.html

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