Multitasking, an unattainable myth?

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Wake up, check e-mails, work out, shower, make coffee, get dressed.

Take the tube, read the news, check e-mails, call parents.

Work, be proactive, be focused, be alert, attend meetings, make calls.

Sign off, see friends, talk about work, life and summer plans. Check your messages and Instagram. Repeat.

Multitasking is one of the hardest skills to master and yet it’s almost imperative. It’s not strange that multitasking initially referred to a computer's ability to perform several tasks at the same time. Nowadays we expect similar levels of efficiency in ourselves. Is that really possible?

Unfortunately, all too often the answer is no.

Multitasking appears to be an unattainable myth.

The human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once. What we do, in fact, is “task-switching”. What happens is that our brains switch focus from one task to another and then quickly rule the activation of the second one. Therefore, when we consider ourselves great multitaskers, we are, actually, just good at quickly turning tasks off and on.

Recruiters have to switch tasks quickly, simultaneously and efficiently.

We need to call clients and think of the candidates at the same time, whilst considering CVs and job specs. Speaking to candidates on the phone and understanding their tone, needs and style, saying the right things at the right time, listening effectively whilst taking notes, being alert for any “red flags” that could cost us a deal. It’s a busy industry and we need to keep up.

And yet, research indicates that we’ll be more successful and productive if we keep our focus at one thing at a time, get it done and move to the next. That way we can be time efficient, by getting things done faster and in order, as long as we have a prioritised and realistic schedule. We’ll save ourselves from the cognitive costs of wearing ourselves out and maximise the quality of each project. Is it feasible in recruitment? If you ask me, it’s not feasible anywhere. However, I do believe that the way to go is somewhere in the middle.

We simply have to stop pursuing “multitasking” and embrace “task-shifting”.

Have lists, stick to schedule, keep phones out of sight and be able to accept our nature and admit to people on the phone that we are typing, thinking, listening and checking the job description at the same time, so we might need a second at one point. And sometimes yes, we need to pause and give our brains a break.

Do a bit of research on multitasking, take a test to see for yourself, weigh the personal advantages and disadvantages. Do not drop it, adjust to suit. Everyone is different and, equally, everyone can benefit from new approaches. One thing for sure is that if you see your computer slowing down, you don’t buy a new RAM straight away – you just close the 157 tabs first, reboot and start afresh.

Written by Athanasia Varvitsioti, Consultant - International Audit, Hanami International

If you want to find out more on how Hanami International handles multitasking please contact us via:
Tel: +44 207 048 7880