In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, the question arises – how do you approach tasks: serially or in parallel? What does it mean to be ‘done’ with something? Essentially, it’s about whether you patiently wait for one activity to conclude before diving into the next, or if you prefer running multiple tasks concurrently. And, importantly, do you do this with conscious intent?

Now, it’s fair to acknowledge that there are times when we find ourselves multitasking involuntarily – checking emails during a video call, for instance. However, I’m talking about more substantial tasks that involve downtime between events. These might be situations where you await a response, engage in a learning process spanning weeks, or depend on someone else to complete a task before you can proceed. This is a practice akin to what project managers do in orchestrating their teams to deliver optimal outcomes.

One Task At A Time, Thanks Mum

Consider my 82-year-old Mum, who recently visited. In her younger days, she was a whirlwind of activity – juggling work, managing the home, and maintaining a bustling social life. Yet, now, she consciously focuses on one thing at a time. An example: her new hearing aids needed adjustment, but she delayed seeking help until after her visit, making the resolution process extend over a couple of weeks. Had she acted sooner, the issue would have been resolved promptly. When asked, she revealed she consciously manages tasks this way to minimize stress and enhance her overall enjoyment – a valuable lesson in intentional living.

Trade Off?

This made me contemplate my own work habits and those of people around me. It became evident that some prefer a singular focus, while others effortlessly juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. Much like my Mum did when I was growing up. The multitaskers appeared to achieve more, squeezing time and boosting productivity. But, is there a trade-off? Perhaps less stress, but what about creativity and quality? Sometimes, a single-minded focus on an activity is necessary for its full enjoyment.

Consciously and Tools

The pervasive push to do more is undeniable. Personally, I recognize that success in my role requires parallel work. It’s a leadership trait, and in my earlier developer days, this approach wouldn’t have been feasible. Strategic thinking was crucial, but working one task at a time aligned with a strategy. Tools are abundant for enhancing productivity – from the traditional to the modern. Personally, I rely on a perpetual Trello board to keep my work and home life on track.

Reflecting on my journey, it’s apparent that my brain has adapted over the years. While it might be for the better in terms of efficiency, I sometimes ponder if it has stripped away some joy from life. Perhaps there’s wisdom in occasionally embracing a more singular focus, akin to the simplicity my Mum finds in taking one task at a time.