I’m a fanatic when it comes to M*A*S*H.
Some time, let’s sit down together – you and me – and hash out our differences (if any) on who was the better character – Blake vs. Potter, Trapper vs. B.J… and of course Frank vs. Charles.
Hey, speaking of Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, M.D., he had something important to say on the topic of multi-tasking:
“I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”
That might be fine for life-saving surgery in 1952, when the scene took place; or even in the pre-Internet business environment of 1977, when that episode aired.
Impossible in this day and age, they say.
That’s not what I say.
I Say: It’s About Time We Listen To Charles, Because He Was Right
Multi-tasking is more like “not really tasking at all”.
It doesn’t get you there faster; studies actually show that with all the rapid shifting of gears between mindsets and tasks, it slows you down considerably.
Getting refocused after any significant interruption in your work can require, according to an article on Fast Company called “Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching” by Kermit Pattison, up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds!
Hell, you can watch that time just fly right by, totally wasted.
Have You Ever Noticed
That “quick 1-hour meeting” down at the coffee shop to give someone free consulting (oops, I mean “discuss collaboration with someone”) while paying clients wait, can easily take 3 hours out of your day?
You know that quick phone call you took while you were supposed to be in hustle mode? Did you get right back to work the moment the call ended? (Track the next 10 times it happens if you’re not sure.)
Even if you wear a headset or use speakerphone, any attempts to do work while on the phone – even if you’re having your time wasted on a conference call twittling your thumbs while others blather on inconsequentially – come to naught.
Now imagine trying to be productive while actually working on two or more projects simultaneously.
Will they come out well?
Or will they both run late and come out looking like botched meatball surgery?
You tell me.
It’s not a game.
Or is it?