“Do you want me to rush the rush job I am rushing now, or rush the rush job you wanted me to rush, before I rush the rush job I’m rushing now, or rush the rush job I was rushing before.
Yesterday, I posted the above quote in Mike Strum’s excellent article on “Single Tasking, found here https://medium.com/personal-growth/the-benefit-of-single-tasking-and-how-to-get-yourself-to-do-it-9556c093ba25 I have had this quote with me for many years. People thought the quote was quaint. I lived this saying. I fought for my sanity dealing with the constant switching gears. Multitasking only led to a job half assed done. Hoping no mistakes were noticed. Making sure the client signed off on the project. (Then it would be their fault)
Currently, there is the drive in this shared/entrepreneurial landscape to perform single tasks at a time. Single tasking allows for deep work on projects we believe in. However, successful single taskers, such as Stephen King, Charles Dickens and known scientists. I can go on and on with examples. These creative and successful individuals have someone in the background. One who performs multitasking that is required for such individuals to be a high performance single taskers. This individual is the multi-tasker, one that either employed or not employed. Is a wife, secretary or in the example of female writers such as Virginia Woolf and George Elliot their husbands. They are in most cases the unsung multitasking heroes, people who excelled in offering support, be it editing, running a household and or printing of books.
Known multitasking celebrities such as Elon Musk (Elon seems to be the face of CEO multitasking) in my opinion are not in the same league as to what most American workers face in having to perform many things at once. People such as, Elon Musk have a vast support base. He has the luxury of having multiple projects going all because there is a secretary, wife, ex wives, managers, scientists, someone in HR who covers and performs the many life and business’s annoying tasks for him.
Leaving a job three years ago, one that I had for seventeen years, because my job changed from creating to just putting out fires. The owner of the company would disappear the day before I was to head out of town for time off. I was required to handle her items while trying to clear my own projects. Vacations were fraught with thoughts on “what could possibly go wrong?” and knowing that no one attended your work.
In certain cases when performing multitasking for a boss or client is is good to realize that there will be no emotional support from this person. Working for such a person blends their personal life projects with your work duties. Working on deadlines, running for coffee (the “funny” montages we see in films such as “Devil Wears Prada”) write out family and company Christmas cards, (secretaries the world over perform this duty every year) finish edits on the much needed grant proposal or purchase a birthday gift because the deep thinker had forgotten about his/her child. At the end of the day performing such Herculean tasks, do not expect a pat on the head. Really don’t.
Freelance sites are inundated with requests seeking a self starter/motivated individual who can handle multitasking. Answer this type of ad with extreme caution. The person who placed the ad lives in a world of turmoil. They themselves cannot handle the work load they have taken on. So, they place an ad for someone to help, usually cheap. In most cases it is your job to make their entire life pleasant. I speak from experience.
When your boss’s personal life merges with your work duties, is the time to consider your position with the company. It is an insidious situation, you want to perform well. You go that extra length. The owners know you need this position. When you do garner a bit of praise, you are quite frazzled at the end of the week. Some will use the rationalization that you are paying your dues to move up in a company. No, that is an abuse of power. Over a period of time this situation becomes very oppressive and deflating. What to do?
Take the road and to strike out on your own! You believe you have skills in multitasking, you have handled it quite well over the years. You promise yourself to use it sparingly, because now you can perform the deep work while dealing with the bits and widgets that are required to running your business. Life gets in the way, but you are still maintaining that work life balance. Things are going very well. You take a few cues from Tim Ferris think about automating certain tasks. Now, you ponder building a team, creating a company to take on some responsibilities. You are the mindful boss. You want those around you to have that work life balance you are enjoying. You know they have lives.
Be warned though. The minute you take the first step of requesting a personal favor from one of your team members, you may find yourself writing classifieds requesting a worker who is great at multitasking. Take care of your own life. Do not make someone who works for you do your personal work. Do not be the person multitaskers will write about later.