I got busted. Big-time busted. Imagine you’re leading a meeting with a number of managers on the call. You’re sharing your screen, walking through an important process and outlining critical tasks. A couple attendees start talking, and you notice that little email icon light up. Your email is on another screen, so you click it. The email opens. You start reading, thinking about the contents of the email and not the meeting.
Then, “Jason, what do you think of that approach?”
Shit. I missed it all. What were they talking about? What approach? Ugh.
“I’m sorry, I got distracted on another matter. Can you repeat that?”
I hear an exhale, followed by “Let me repeat that again…”
Multitasking. Let’s be honest, we all do it. Especially us project professionals who have things thrown at us all day, every day. Checking emails while on a call. Scrolling through social media while writing a report. Watching someone’s lips move and tactically nodding while you’re making a mental list of all the things you have to do yet today. Driving and texting (which can kill you). The funny thing is, we all think we’re really good at it!
I’ve read studies about how multitasking can hurt our brains and actually make us more dumberer. You can read that on your own (just after you read this though). Instead, I’ll focus on two other area wheres there can be serious impacts from multitasking; relationships.
You’re Not Important. In my opinion, this is the biggest issue. I was talking to my son recently about my day after he asked how it went. Instead of looking at me, he was staring at his phone. I was telling him about my day, then started making random stuff up. “After my meeting I milked a cow and fed the chickens, then jumped back on another call.” He barely flinched. Then I stopped talking. After a minute of me staring at him, he finally noticed I’d quit talking. I asked if what he was looking at was earth-shatteringly important. He said no.
Have you ever been talking to someone and they instead focus on something else? It’s happened to me. I’ve also been called out doing it to others. When we focus our attention on something other than the person we’re talking to, we convey a message of they’re not important. We value something else more than the person. Whether it’s with our family, friends or coworkers, be mindful of your multitasking and show this person how important they are in the moment.
This has become such an issue they’ve named it; technoference. I kid you not! Google it.
Can I Actually Trust You Heard Me? In the example I gave where I missed a conversation and asked them to repeat, do you think they’ll fully trust me next time something similar happens? They’ll probably think I’d just agree so I wasn’t busted for focusing on something else. It’s going to take time and action to prove I was in fact listening, and comprehended the conversation.
Have you ever given instructions to someone and noticed they were doing something else while you were talking? Or, especially during COVID, gave instructions to someone over the phone and later it was not done correctly? Was that person multitasking? Do you trust they’ll hear you correctly in the future? This puts stress on the level of trust you have with people. Repeating what you heard back or putting it in writing definitely helps!
Multitasking. We do it and probably will continue to. But, be mindful of when you start multitasking. Focus on the person or people you’re interacting with. This will show they’re important to you and also helps with trust.