Confessions of a professional multitasking addict

As a child, I loved talking on the phone. I mean, c’mon, do you know ANY teenager, let alone one from the 80s, who didn’t spend every moment on the phone (when they weren’t actually hanging out with their friends)? Even as I entered adulthood and began my career, the phone was an integral part of my life. And this was BEFORE cellphones!

But then something started to change. It was very subtle at first. I barely even noticed the shift was happening. Looking back now, though, the signs were all there; I was simply oblivious. And here we are today, facing the cold hard truth: I am a multitasking addict and, as a result, I don’t like talking on the phone anymore.

How did I get here? How can someone who would spend HOURS talking on the phone suddenly look at the ringing device with such distaste. After pondering the question, I had an A-HA moment: talking on the phone prohibits multitasking!

I realized that as I moved ahead in the corporate world and took on more and more responsibilities, my aptitude for multitasking grew as well. I became the Queen of multitasking. And I’m proud of it!

There are days where I am simultaneously planning an event, writing a press release, reviewing website content, producing email campaigns, coordinating appointments for my kids, and monitoring social media. You get the picture. But really, I’m good with all of that. Until the phone rings. When that happens, I stare at it, practically paralyzed with fear. Why?

Because I am a multitasking addict!

And I know as soon as I answer it…EVERYTHING STOPS. I can’t read. I can’t edit. I can’t create. I must focus on one, and ONLY one, task. All at once I’m thinking: Who’s calling? Did I have a call scheduled? (check calendar on phone) Is it important? Can I send them to voice mail? Are they just going to keep calling? How long will the call take?

I know. I know. I have a problem. My addiction to multitasking has affected my ability to communicate! I cannot remember the last time I just chilled and gabbed on the phone. We text. We skype. We snapchat. We post and tweet and use every other method of communication created.

Multitasking is crucial to survival in today’s workplace. But at what cost? I have read countless articles and studies that show how multitasking is actually detrimental to your productivity. In fact, one Harvard Business Review article states: “In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.”  

Now that I understand my aversion to phone calls, I’m taking steps to remedy it. I am scheduling more calls. I’m making more calls. And yes, I’m even answering more calls. I still have to take a deep breath when an unplanned call comes through. And while I still prefer communicating digitally, where I can go back and review aspects of the conversation before responding (caught multitasking!), I am getting better at more human forms of contact. 

And you know what? I am starting to enjoy the phone again. I like hearing the person at the other end of the line, where I can hear if they’re smiling. There’s no misinterpretation of the message because the intonation was placed on the wrong word. No more trying to “get into the other person’s head” because you’re not quite certain how to interpret their message. 

While I am still addicted to multitasking, I am giving myself more permission to uni-task. And I’m spending more time enjoying the conversation. 

Are you a multitasking addict? How has it impacted you? Tweet me: @joannegore121. Who knows…it just might end up in a phone call. 

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Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: joanne@joannegorecommunications.com Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121