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Multi-Tasking Makes Me Stupid

My mother will be mad when she reads this: I text while I drive.

I anticipate the wreck that will teach me the lesson I need to learn. And shouldn’t the anticipation be enough?

In other areas of my life, I seem to have wisened up about multi-tasking. I’m not good at it. You’re not either, and studies prove it.

For the last few months, I’ve been in transition, moving to another state. I searched for and found a new house, renovated it, scrubbed it clean, and moved into it on Friday. That big personal “To Do”, along with a couple of important clients we were trying to wow, kept me occupied. I was unable to even think of other tasks that I would normally be so satisfied in doing – like responding to friends who wish me a Happy 40th, answering emails from fellow sabbatical advocates, and writing blogs. I knew that these would have to wait, because I could only concentrate on one or two things at a time. And if I’m forced into doing too many tasks at once, I’m not doing them well. I seem to recall being told that women are better at multi-tasking than men. Maybe so, but “better” isn’t good enough.

Perhaps the most important realization I’ve had about the pitfalls of multi-tasking is that thinking is also a task that needs priority. When I’m punching out a to-do list all day long, I’m not allowing time for creative thought and meaningful reflection. For me, my best thinking comes when I am doing nothing other than looking at water, watching a bird, walking in my neighborhood, or writing in my journal.

I believe “thinking” is important enough that we shouldn’t just combine it with other to-dos. What do you think? When do you think?


About Elizabeth Pagano

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Elizabeth consults with organizations on leadership/talent development. She is co-author of THE TRANSPARENCY EDGE: How Credibility Can Make or Break You in Business (McGraw-Hill), which has been translated into four languages and is now in paperback. A former business journalist, articles by and about her have appeared in a wide array of business publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, CNN International, Outside Magazine,, Journal of Accountancy, CBS News, Web CPA, Business to Business, Talent Management, Employee Benefit News, Manage Smarter, and Canada’s Globe and Mail. You can find her book on Amazon:

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After 9/11, Elizabeth sailed with her mother on their family's 43-foot Beneteau, "Revival". To read more about their adventure at sea, go to Since their sailing sabbatical, Elizabeth and her mother have been working tirelessly to ensure that every career path includes a sabbatical or two.

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2 Responses (add yours)

  1. If one sets aside time to just “think”, should the process of thinking be focused in one direction until the thought is completed? Or, should the process attempt to follow multiple thoughts at the same time?

    On June 8, 2010 @ 8:46 am.
  2. Great questions, John! If one has a particular topic that needs contemplation (i.e. what to do next in one’s career, where one wants to move, how to make a loved one feel appreciated, etc.), then focusing on that alone may be valuable. Then again, I think some of our best ideas “bubble up” when we’re thinking about something else. So perhaps we need to get comfortable with being open to what may be while we’re in the act of thinking – in other words, we need to be listening, too.

    Thanks for commenting and participating. :)

    On June 8, 2010 @ 9:37 am.

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