I can send a text, make lasagna, listen to my ipod, train the dog, snap my gum and hop on one foot all at once. It’s something that most women are very good at—Swiss army knife meets Octavius. On the other hand most men are better at compartmentalizing—Magnifying glass meets Tupperware.
Multitasking isn’t the wondrous productive routine one might think. Doing a bunch of stuff at the same time is like trying to hit more than one target at once, which unless you are Robin Hood, isn’t all that effective. Even if you are Robin Hood, it’s a safe bet you’re not going to hit the bull’s eye, or shall I say bull’s eyes very often.
Diluted competency isn’t the only casualty. Recently, we had some new neighbors move in a few blocks away. My husband, Dee, suggested that we stop by and meet them. “Naa,” I said, “I don’t want to.” He looked surprised. “Why not?” I stammered a while and then blurted, “Because I don’t give a crap!” Dee was shocked. “Just kidding,” I said sweetly, “I would love to meet them some other time.”
This conversation bothered me because I actually didn’t give a crap. Now I’ve always considered myself to be a caring, love-your-neighbor kind of person, welcoming, even. I’m capable of spinning three plates of cookies and knocking on a door with a smile. So what’s my problem?
Multitasking. There are multiple complications with multitasking. It means that every difficulty you and all the people you love and care about are front and center on your mind—leaping and twirling, demanding attention. Sometimes there are just too many people on stage with starring roles and something’s gotta give. Honestly, I just didn’t have it in me to take one more thing onboard without flooding the boat. See, I even multitask metaphorically.
Compartmentalizing doesn’t mean that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; but it does mean that you can file away problems alphabetically and then focus on each one systematically. Instead of pork-barreling one can effectively deal with the task at hand and function at full capacity. You can do things like, say… meet new neighbors without taking on their misfortunes.
So I think I’ll learn to compartmentalize. I’ve downloaded an audiobook on the subject that will totally accelerate my progress. I can listen to it while I bake cookies for the new neighbors, text my daughter with life-changing advice, prepare my remarks for that book club and… oh wait.