The big lie which will land you your next job

Multi-tasking sounds impressive but the truth is you're far more capable when you are doing just one thing.

At your next job interview walk right in and tell them you are magnificent at multi-tasking. It’s exactly what they want to hear. It will make you sound like you’re exceptionally efficient, productive and capable of juggling the thousands of tasks about to be headed your way. They will be so impressed they will probably hire you on the spot.

Of course, if you would prefer not to lie in an interview, don’t tell them that at all. Tell them that multi-tasking is completely counter-productive. Tell them that multi-tasking is really just divided attention and doing multiple things poorly. Explain why you are a proud mono-tasker who is actually far more creative, capable and efficient. It may or may not impress them. It’s quite possible they will be too busy checking their email to actually take in anything you are saying… but you may as well give it a shot.

Many of us are mentally fatigued because we are constantly multi-tasking. Each day it is like being a one-man band taking on Led Zeppelin’s entire back catalogue. It is utterly exhausting and not pleasant for anyone in near proximity.

The sad reality is that you perform terribly when multi-tasking. Not only are you up to four times more likely to crash your car when talking on the phone, your conversational skills can really suffer when part of your brain is focused on avoiding dogs, children and all those other distracted road users. Science tells us that it is incredibly hard to remain witty, relaxed and engaged in conversation when you are panic-braking to avoid a sweet little grandmother on a zebra crossing.

It’s not optimal to watch Game of Thrones whilst looking at an Excel spreadsheet – chances are you’ll get confused as to who is beheading who and end up with all your decimal places in the wrong place. It’s best not to post on social media whilst showering – you may forget to wash important areas and do you really trust those claims about phones being waterproof? It’s also not advisable to cut your toenails whilst making spaghetti Bolognese – that’s just basic hygiene, but you get the point.

When multi-tasking we generally perform well below our best. If Leonardo Da Vinci had of owned an iPhone, the Sistine Chapel would probably be a half-finished bodge job. If Tolstoy had to work in a hectic open plan office he may well have abandoned War and Peace 300 pages in. They succeeded thanks to the wonders of mono-tasking.

Mono-tasking not only makes us better at our jobs, it can also make the experience of work far richer and more enjoyable. It’s only when you are doing just one thing that you can find what scientists call ‘flow’. With your mind completely immersed in a task, hours can go by quickly. You can gain focus, think creatively and get on a roll.

If you would like to feel far less stressed, far more productive and far happier in your work, mono-tasking could be for you. Below are a few suggestions to help you get on the mono-tasking bandwagon (and to help you sit there comfortably doing just one thing at a time).

  • Turn off notifications on your laptop and phone – all those distracting pop-ups and pings serve only to drag you out of your mono-tasking world.
  • Set aside certain times of the day for answering emails and being on social media, rather than constantly being pulled in and out of it.
  • When you want to mono-task find a quiet space and politely ask your workmates not to distract you (unless it’s for something important like cake)
  • Eat away from your desk – dedicating a small amount of time to savouring your food makes life richer and is a valuable mono-tasking skill
  • For safety’s sake try to save those phone calls and text messages for a time when you are not behind the wheel of a fast moving two tonne hunk of metal
  • Practise mindfulness – it’s perhaps the ultimate form of mono-tasking. Even though it may seem a little weird or uncomfortable at first, regularly practising mindfulness can deliver a huge range of physical and psychological benefits (particularly for exhausted multi-taskers who are trying to reform themselves).