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  • Raghav Sand

Multi-tasking and Multiple Skills: A Critique

Even people who are considered heavy multitaskers are not actually very good at multitasking. In one study, Stanford University researcher Clifford Nass found that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.

In fact, some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40%. Take a moment and think about all of the things you are doing right now. Obviously, you are reading this article, but chances are good that you are also doing several things at once. Perhaps you’re also listening to music, texting a friend, checking your email in another browser tab, or having a meal.

Do – Did – Done

We may all be using some sort of a to-do list in order to get things done. Some of us like it in the form of a handwritten note, while others may be comfortable with productivity apps on mobile devices. At the end of the day or week, when we compare the work done against our original plan, the number of ticks and crosses are a good barometer for productivity. It is important to complete the important tasks rather than a greater number of tasks.

While assessing the need to become more productive, it is paramount for us to know the motivation behind our quest. What is this for? Why do I want to be more productive? Each of us will have different answers to such questions, but reasons such as getting more time with the family, pursuing a dream or making a progress in career will feature widely. If you can’t connect the activity to the ultimate driving desire, then you could be the most productive person in the world—you’re just swimming in the wrong direction.

Less is (Actually) the New More

A few renowned performance coaches ask their clients ‘to do less’. Chris Sparks, founder and chief executive of The Forcing Function, a performance coaching company for investors, executives and entrepreneurs pointed out that he asks his clients to do less.

“If we do fewer things, we can do the things that move us forward much faster” Chris Sparks

Multitasking is the quickest way to burnout. Multitaskers are more prone to mistakes and their creativity dampens eventually. Suppose, you are doing another activity during mealtime – chances are you will end up overeating. I don’t need to remind you the ill-effects of overeating – I am sure you know better. Attention is limited in terms of both capacity and duration, so it is important to have ways to effectively manage the attentional resources we have available in order to make sense of the world.

A Case for Nurturing Multiple Skills

The pace of change is dizzying today. Skills that were essential a few years ago have no relevance today. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to predict what kind of skills would be required in the future! According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. The most in-demand occupations or specialties of today did not exist ten or even five years ago, and this trend is likely to continue.

Aptitude and competency will have to be highly transferable. The future of jobs is going to be more and more virtual, different and extensive. Critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are key business skills which form the bedrock of executive education and success. Critical thinking enables an individual to make better decisions which are likely to impact multiple stakeholders. Creativity assists in arriving at innovative solutions which are relevant to all age groups. Without collaboration and communications skills, it is impossible to work with a dispersed and diverse team.

More doors open for people who possess multiple skills. By offering more services, these individuals move faster in their career paths. Some additional skills are acquired, while rest of the time we have to get aware about the skills we already possess. Everything we do is some form of convincing and negotiating. Clients, employers and collaborators quickly realise the value of ‘one-stop shop’ multi-skilled individual. Working with fewer individuals means there are fewer moving parts. Communication and follow-up are much smoother and tasks get completed quickly and economically.

Generalists have the ability to balance their lows from one skill with the highs of other. Both generalists and specialists will peacefully coexist, and neither will ever be able to substitute the other. Though, the future belongs to people who have multidisciplinary skills and can look at the bigger picture.

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