Are you guilty?

What am I guilty of? Multi-tasking. Specifically while on a Zoom meeting or a phone call. Gasp!

I can multi-task.. on some things. I can fill out forms while waiting for something to load. I can check email while my invoices are interfacing with my accounting system. I can listen to music and work, chew gum and walk, listen to an audiobook and drive (until driving becomes stressful like traffic or bad weather). What I can’t do is watch TV while working or design a spreadsheet while talking to someone on the phone. I can do things that are routine or habit in nature along with another routine/habit item. But anything that requires me to concentrate…and no I cannot multi-task.

Maybe you are like me and understand exactly what I am describing. Because I know my limits, I don’t have notifications turned on on my computer (I just had to replace my laptop and I haven’t yet figured how to turn the notifications off and it’s driving me crazy!). My phone is often flipped over so I can’t see the screen and when there is too much noise around me, I put on headphones and play music. And when I meet someone for coffee or attend a meeting my phone is flipped over or in my purse.

So then, why is when I’m in a zoom meeting, I often find myself doing other things? Why am I checking email, updating reports, or even proofreading a blog? If I think about it, I would do the same thing on a phone conference meeting back in my corporate days. I remember that when we would have 1/2 day multi-department meetings, those of us meeting from my office building would all bring our laptops and multi-task while the meeting was going on. The thing is, if we had to meet in person, we would never have done that.

I thought I was being smart. I thought I was making good use of my time.

Now that most of my meetings have moved online, I have discovered that I’m doing it more than ever. My meeting is in front of the computer, giving me really easy access to my computer and all things distracting. I have even found myself “saving” things for when I’m in the meeting. All because I wanted to make great use of my time…

However, it’s disrespectful to those in the meeting with me and especially to those presenting. It was when I was in the corporate world, bored in a meeting that I didn’t want to be in and even more so now that I am more in control of my time.

Let’s begin by talking about how unproductive multi-tasking. I could write a whole article on just this, but has done such a great job at defining multi-tasking and the impact that I’ll let you take a multi-tasking deep dive on your own. What I will highlight is that within this article, they share that multi-tasking:

  • Impacts your short term memory (negatively)
  • Leads to increased anxiety
  • Inhibits creative thinking
  • Stops you from getting into a state of flow
  • Causes more mistakes and less productivity

Yikes! Those are some really good outcomes to stop multi-tasking.

The article then shares the power of single-tasking:

  • Less stress
  • Focus on what you “should” do (vs what your “could” do)
  • More creative.

Just to drive the point home, Susan Cain a writer, states that multi-tasking reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50%! 50%! As someone who takes pride in being productive… that just sucks!!

As much as the impact multi-tasking has on our productivity, I want to go back to the fact that multi-tasking while on zoom meetings is disrespectful. The reality check happened just the other week when I attended a meeting and after the meeting someone asked me for feedback on heir presentation. They respected my opinion enough to ask for it, but I couldn’t give the feedback. I couldn’t because I wasn’t paying attention enough because I was preparing for a meeting the next day while attending this meeting. I felt awful. Really awful. As the same meeting was re-caped, I realized how much I had missed. It was an eye-opener. The universe followed up this incident with a note from Seth Godin that said: “…

The purpose of a meeting is not to fill the allocated slot on the Google calendar invite. The purpose is to communicate an idea and the emotions that go with it, and to find out what’s missing via engaged conversation. If we can’t do that, let’s not meet. Multi-tasking isn’t productive, respectful or healthy.”

Thank you universe, I got the message.

If the meeting itself isn’t worth my attention, then quite honestly, why am I there? Once upon a time in my corporate world, I may not have been able to say no. However, I can’t say that when, as an entrepreneur, I am responsible for my own calendar. If something was worth my saying yes to it, then I should be giving it my undistracted time and energy. I should be respecting all the participants and give them my presence.

This morning, I attended a meeting and was fully present. No multi-tasking. You know what, I actually enjoyed the meeting more this morning than I had in weeks. Why? I think it was because I was fully participating in the meeting and not just being there in body.

Between remembering the impact multitasking has on productivity and the lesson on being present, I’m converted. When in zoom, I will there in mind, body and spirit.

I will fully admit, I was guilty. Are you guilty?

“Multi-tasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

Gary W Keller