Stories of mythical creatures can be found in every generation and culture. Mermaids, zombies, unicorns, Big Foot. Their origins are vague, lost somewhere in the passing of time. But one thing they all share in common…sightings are rare.
I want to tell you a story about a mythical beast that I have actually SEEN with my own eyes.
Meetings play a big part of what I do in my day job as executive creative director for an ad agency. Meetings about projects. Meetings with clients. Brainstorming sessions to develop new concepts and ideas. All different kinds of meetings—but a single thread of consistency runs through them all. At nearly every meeting…at least one of them shows itself.
You can identify them within minutes of starting the meeting. One person begins to share information concerning the purpose of the meeting. Data is passed out, explanations are given, objectives listed, feedback requested. And there it is…as though rising out of the mist. Multitaskeros is the one who’s eyes are not on anyone in the group, but glued to the screen of its laptop or smartphone. The sound of fingers clacking away on the keyboard softly fills the room. Multitaskeros, the mythical beast that believes they are able to perfectly execute more than one task at a time with precision and excellence. The eyes occasionally rise to scan the room. There’s a nod of the head—the interjected “uh-huh” or, “that’s right.” Then the eyes slide back to the screen and fingers start flying. Multitaskeros has appeared again.
There’s only one thing we need keep in mind about this mythical creature. IT DOESN’T EXIST!! Multitaskeros isn’t multitasking at all. Multitaskeros is just being distracted (and…let’s admit it, rude).
The truth is, we’ve all seen Multitaskeros. If we’re honest, we know that we’ve all played the role from time to time. Trying to half listen to what people are saying while thinking about where to go for lunch, while taking a quick peek at email…and so it goes.
Multitasking was a term coined in the 90s referring to a computer’s ability to execute more than one task at a time. It was appropriate because computers actually have that capacity. Somehow the term morphed into a “skill” that many people now list on their resume as an expertise. But science has shown again and again that, as humans, our brains don’t work that way.
“Multitasking gives us all the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” — Steve Uzell
Guess what happens when we allow ourselves to be distracted by multiple tasks at a single moment. We get stressed. Its an expenditure of energy that drains us. Energy that creatives need to create is wasted on trying to do more than one thing at a time—and leads to doing everything less efficiently and effectively. And lest we forget, it also disrespects the people trying to communicate with us.
bePRESENT! is the habit of doing one thing at a time. It’s the habit of focused attention. In our culture…it’s a hard habit to learn. But the effort is well worth it. When we focus on what or who is in front of us, we’re able to gather and process information more effectively. We can accomplish more in less time. And for the creative, it leaves that store of creative energy to be used for its intended purpose…creating!
For more on bePRESENT! check out my book Burnout Sucks!