How Slow Motion Multi-tasking Can Be Good For Us

I have a serious problem with multi-tasking.

But maybe its not so bad.

I came across a talk today and this economist, Tim Harford,  talks about the benefits of “Slow Motion Multi-tasking”. He argues that working on multiple projects at once, can do more good for our creativity than we realise.

I’m constantly working on multiple projects and then feeling overwhelmed, gave up and felt too guilty to get back into it because “What is the point?”.

Yes, throughout my life, I’ve started and stopped learning multiple things. It started with the guitar when I was 12, then different types of sports (netball, basketball, handball, running and yoga), picking up different languages with varying levels of proficiency since university (German – semi fluent, Spanish – can order in a restaurant, Korean – can read hangeul and Japanese – N5 or the most basic level). Oh did I mention, baking, drawing and ukelele classes too?

Clearly I have a lot of interests and I love all of them. But I hate the way I feel when I feel stuck and want to give up and can’t seem to get back into it immediately.

Tim Hartford says that it’s ok. One of the reasons, he says, that we can’t seem to make multi-tasking work is because we lapse into it only when we are in a rush.

If we were to slow down, list down our projects and put them into boxes so that we don’t forget our ideas and work we’ve done on it, we’ll be able to come back to it when we change contexts and feel “unstuck” again. Creativity happens when we take an idea in it’s original context and put it in another one.

The key is doing it slowly. He gives examples of the most successful scientists and creatives who manage to multi-task successfully. One of the biggest fears of the creative person is losing an idea, but if you have a box, you will never lose it.

The idea of multi-tasking shouldn’t be because you are in a hurry, but because you are in no hurry at all.

I can live with that.