I used to have a magazine clipping posted to the bulletin board above my desk that said, “You know you’re too busy when…”
It listed a number of signs of over-work including, “You feel decadent for taking time off from work for surgery,” and, “You return business calls in between labor pains.”
There was a time when I considered ‘ability to multi-task’ an important job skill – I was really proud to be a master multi-tasker. It was on my resume. Then one day, when I was running a little late I attempted to blow my nose at the same time as I was brushing my teeth.
Don’t try this.
That was when I started to believe that doing too many things at once could be a really bad idea, and it turns out that I may not be completely wrong.
Scientific American reports that, “A study in the July 16th issue of Neuron suggests that though we can train our brains to work faster as we juggle, we never actually manage to do more than one thing at a time.”
I heard a story recently about an organization that had been downsized from eight people to four. Those four, all new in their jobs because the work had also been consolidated in a central location, were working 10-12 hour days, each juggling two jobs. Interestingly, the big boss’s perception was that he had taken an organization of eight people and grown it to twelve.
In another company, organizations gave up headcount to staff a team with specialized skills that would support them. But the new organization had to reduce costs and cut the team dramatically. The players left on the new team had to juggle 3-4 jobs each. The bosses didn’t understand why this didn’t work.
How many ‘hats’ have you had to wear at one time? How many jobs have you been given where you had multiple masters in the name of efficiency? How many times has your organization been ‘consolidated’ or work ‘eliminated’ that then had to be picked up by those left on the team?
When was the last time you had a job where the scope was … let’s say, reasonable?
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