Monday, 30 March 2015


I’ve written frequently on the pernicious effects of multitasking. Focus, I instruct, focus on one thing at a time and stop juggling.

At a talk I gave at Portsmouth University a lady upbraided me for this:-
But what do I do when my son wants help with his homework, my husband wants his supper and I need to finish my essay? How can I not multitask?

I was kind but firm in insisting an orderly queue was formed and that each task was exquisitely performed and then everyone would be happy.  I knew as I said this I was talking bollocks. Apart from anything else I was talking to a woman. And women actually can multitask better than men. Fact.

This week I had to become a woman.

We’re moving house…multitasking women’s work…where they excel.

But disastrously my wife was very unwell - had to stay in bed - as unusual a thing as Netanyahu and Obama doing a man hug - she became a shivering germ-bag - a pretty one but nonetheless if it sneezes, groans and closes its eyes it’s a class A germ-bag.

So I was in charge.

f my wife’s plan; inheriting her way of doing things…. I had to think like her. Removal men, solicitor, BT, Bank, Estate Agent, Council, Royal Mail, Builder, Cleaners, an army of people all recruited and briefed by her who, she being unable to speak, meant I was their new CEO.

And they all spoke to me at once and rushed around me doing things and if I didn’t instantly respond to:- “this to go on the lorry Mate? …is this one to pack or stay? … can you return the deeds now please? … can you confirm that postcode?”… then they showed their initiative and that was usually a catastrophe.

It wasn’t that hard but it was an unremitting exercise in doing what I’d been telling people to stop doing, as the brain is not designed to do it - multitasking. And moving house or dealing with anything that is existentially critical is almost by definition one requiring multitasking skills.

My experience in multitasking came to a head as I took off my pyjamas on Saturday morning. A trivial thing which one can easily do whilst concurrently doing another task like reading a checklist, moving items around on a shelf…top off easy…trousers off on one side and using my toes to pull off trouser leg two I suddenly became aware that leg one and leg two had inexplicably both got trapped in trouser leg one causing me to lose balance and fall heavily to the ground. This multitasking has got a lot of minor injuries to answer for.

Yet, it’s simple enough.

Have a detailed plan. Any of us can manage to multitask up to a point but there’s no point in saving five seconds on trouser removal when the consequence is so silly.

And plan succession management. Or blame your poor wife.

Or simply be away.

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