Science is now confirming what we’ve long suspected—that multi-tasking is not only an overrated virtue but can in fact be counter-productive. Women in particular have been brainwashed to think we should be able to juggle work, home, community and social activity balls simultaneously and efficiently without dropping a single one in order to be deemed successful mothers, wives and human beings. Well, it’s all bull crap. Multi-tasking only results in an outcome that is less than it could or should be. This realization prompted me to dig up a posting on the value of down-time that I published a few years ago. Let’s not fall for the multi-tasking myth and instead allow ourselves the time and space we need to properly manage and in fact, enjoy our lives.
Feeling uninspired? Take a nap
Leah Eichler’s Women@Work column in The Globe and Mail was a source of inspiration and affirmation better than most I’ve read in a while. Eichler maintains that we often get our best ideas when our brains are off-duty. Haven’t you ever been struck with a brilliant idea just as you’re about to drop off to sleep or when you’re walking the dog through the park? According to Eichler we should allow ourselves more down-time to allow these bursts of inspiration to emerge. Research has shown that we need quiet time for our brains to arrive at the state of zen conducive to new ideas.
I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy. For that reason, I keep a pad and pencil on my night table and another in the map pocket of my car so I can write down these flashes of genius when they happen, or at the next red light. Fortunately I’m very good at zoning out. And to think teachers used to yell at us for not paying attention. Just think of all the earth-shattering discoveries and inventions they probably killed when we were daydreaming in school.
Multi-tasking and “busyness” are considered virtues in today’s world of 24/7 cell phones, e-mail and texting but these activities are ultimately counter-productive. Thomas Edison would regularly sit on his boat dock holding a fishing pole and line in the water, with no bait. He needed time to think. Bill Gates used to isolate himself at his cottage to free his mind for creativity. Gordon Lightfoot would check into a hotel and stay in his room for days to be free from distractions so he could write songs. And, Winston Churchill is well-known for his afternoon power naps that freed his mind from the stresses of trying to save the world from destruction.
When I was working, I always found the activity and noise inherent in daily office life to be distracting. My best ideas always came when I was doing some non-work-related activity. I needed my head to be free of clutter and my brain to be in a happy place to be truly productive.
So, with that in mind, please excuse me while I go take a nap. There are major world problems that need solving and I’m pretty sure I’m just on the cusp of finding the key to cold fusion—right after I summon up that Nobel-prize-worthy literature bubbling away in there somewhere. Maybe checking into a Four Seasons Hotel in Bali with the scent of fragrant blossoms and the sounds of surf outside my window would help. It certainly can’t hurt.