When Multitasking isn’t working, How do you know?


The research on multitasking has shown that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Many people assume that doing two or three things at once is bound to be more productive than doing just one thing. But in reality, there aren’t very many tasks that lend themselves to multitasking. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and assert that multitasking may be one of the biggest time wasters going.


Exercise: Do you know when you are multitasking?

In our last article we looked at some of the ways that people unconsciously multitask. One example we discussed was the practice of editing while writing. (And I can attest to how tough that habit is to break!)  But how, when, and why we multitask is very individual. So that’s what our exercise is about today. I want to help you zero in on your own particular brand of multitasking.


Discover When and Where You are Multitasking - Create Your Observation Template

Take a piece of paper or create a Word document (this was you can re-use the template) and add three columns to it. These will be labeled as follows:

Task and Skills Needed

Observations and Places Where You Lost Focus and/or Were Multitasking

Outcome/Plan for Next Time


Step #1: Your Task and Skills

Select one item from your To-Do List to focus on. Write it on your template and also note the skills that you see as necessary for this task. Consider whether this is a task that you think will lend itself to multitasking.


Step #2: Observe Yourself as You Complete Your Task and Note Where You Lose Focus or Are Multitasking

Do this without judgment. Are the skills you used the same as what you anticipated? How do you feel as you complete this task? Do you notice yourself losing focus or being pulled in other directions?


Step back and consider where you are multitasking. Did you let yourself be pulled away from your singular focus? Or did you make a conscious choice to multitask? Be as specific as you can about the additional tasks you worked on.


Step #3: How did this work for you? What will you do next time?

This is where you identify and assimilate your lessons, and then make choices for moving forward.  For example, what were the different skills and ways of thinking that were needed for this task?


How might this work?

Let’s say the task you select is decluttering the top shelf of your closet. The skills needed are focus, persistence, and decisiveness.


Next, you get down to work and observe how it goes. Jot down notes and be non-judgmental. Here’s a sample: The radio distracted me. When I pulled everything off the shelf I read through a scrapbook that I found. Then, when the phone rang, I answered it and ended up talking to my friend for half an hour.


Be specific about the places where you split your focus and/or were multitasking. In this case, you might make note of listening to the radio, looking through the scrapbook, and talking to your friend, for example.


Finally, consider your experience, assess how it went, and make some choices about how you might do it differently next time.


In this example making decisions up front about how to manage distractions and interruptions, will help you next time around.

Task and Skills Needed

Observations and Places Where you Lost Focus and/or Were Multitasking

Outcome/Plan for Next Time

TASK: Decluttering the top shelf of my closet

SKILLS: Focus, persistence, decisiveness.

OBSERVATIONS: The radio distracted me. When I pulled everything off the shelf I read through a scrapbook that I found. When the phone rang, I answered it and ended up talking to my friend for half an hour.

MULTITASKING: Listening to the radio. Answering the phone. Also getting distracted by the scrapbook.

OUTCOME: Make clearer, concrete choices about how I’ll handle interruptions and distraction next time.

PLAN: I’ll think before I act. Ex) I’ll turn off the phone before I begin.


Recognizing when you are unconsciously multitasking is an eye-opening and empowering experience. It can have a profound impact on the quality and quantity of your work, as well as on your experience of your moments.

As you work with this exercise, I’d love to hear what you discover.



Do you have comments? Questions? Topics you'd like to read more about? I invite you to write me at [email protected], or post a comment on my blog.

Until next time, Choose to Lead,





Originally published by Paula Eder, www.thetimefinder.co