Go Ahead. Multitask. But Try It Like This.

Hey there!

There’s a school of thought that says, “No multitasking! Concentrate on one thing at a time!”

Seems logical. But what if there was a particular type of multitasking that worked, and worked really well?

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Hope this helps!


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hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and I’m pretty sure that if you’re
watching these videos on a regular basis
you know how valuable I find getting
stuff done is and I’m also a pretty
inveterate multitasker I’m usually doing
more than one thing at once making a
video watching my phone making sure that
this is happening and that is happening
setting up a webpage you know checking
the the post-production on something is
it exporting prop haidu multitask and
there’s a school of thought that says
don’t multitask don’t do that just do
one thing at a time you’re gonna kill
yourself if you multitask you’re gonna
make mistakes you’re gonna you’re really
not gonna get as much done as you think
you’re gonna get done well I really
can’t help myself because there are
times when I’m waiting for something to
complete that I can do something else
and that’s just one instance it’s not as
crazy as an example that I remember from
when Betsy was running a session at
South by Southwest on Millennials in the
workplace she’s an expert on Millennials
and coaching and and she’s just
brilliant and she was running a panel
session at South by Southwest that tells
you right there that she’s brilliant
because she’s running a panel at South
by Southwest anyway they had a series of
of I think was four people they had two
managers of Millennials and two
Millennials and one of the Millennials
worked for a major soft drink company
I’m not gonna say which one but she
worked in their New York offices and she
had the crowd in stitches because she’s
like look if I am in a meeting and I’m
bored I’m gonna be on my phone and I
don’t care who who knows it and you know
if it’s really boring I might just leave
I can listen to the meeting and check to
see if I’m bored but I can also be on my
phone and getting other work done
because I’m a really good multitasker I
can multitask really really well and you
know aside from the vocal fry in the up
talking and all that sort of thing it
was just hysterical because there were
many many people in the room that were
like wow okay you don’t even know what
you don’t know yet however she was
working for this major soft drink
company not as an intern but as an
executive so there was something to be
said for that despite my raucous laugh
um I also saw a talk on Ted about
multitasking and I read an article I
think in the Atlantic about it and both
of them had a similar thesis on
multitasking you don’t have to just do
one thing at a time you can multitask if
you do it in a particular fashion and
when I think about it that’s exactly how
I do it and that fashion is doing it
gracefully that’s it gracefully
so the frenetic ism the the the speed
and the acceleration and get things done
go go go the over that wall you know the
whole idea of rushing when you’re
multitasking do this then that then this
that that whole set of energies can
really cause problems it can make you
make mistakes it can make you forget
things that you were supposed to do
while you were so busy doing other
things and it brought to mind the
behaviors that I observed in one of my
managers when I worked at America Online
his name was Mark Erwin is one of my
heroes one of the best people I ever
worked with
and he had this really calm way about
him even though he got a ton of stuff
done we’d be in meetings and he might be
taking notes looking at the computer
talking to somebody making a quick call
to get some clarification on things
looking at physical samples of stuff but
he was doing these things in a way that
was just lovely just moving from thing
you know if he wanted to make a note he
would take his time to do make the note
go back to the computer go back to the
meeting whatever it was and I never
quite could put words to what I was
observing and what I saw and what I
thought was really good but for me it
was a great model because I learned from
that that you don’t have to be a nut job
while you’re doing work now this was the
same guy who when I walked into his
office one day and he said so how long
do you think it’ll take you to get that
area done I was working on an area for
America online that’s what I used to do
and I said I think he’s gonna take
another week and a half and he said just
suppose that you had two hours
what could you get done in two hours how
much of it could you get done in two
hours could you get the whole thing done
think about that
could you you know it turns out I got it
done in three hours so he taught me to
question all of my assumptions all of my
facts all of my assumptions and I will
forever be grateful for that because he
set me up for a really good life
experience in that area but I saw this
this as I said this talk on Ted and this
article I think in the Atlantic about
just sort of slowing down the frantic
nature of what can be you know the
nuttiness of multitasking and I also
found some historical examples of it
Einstein for example Einstein you know
no one could argue that Einstein was
prodigious I mean he was a child prodigy
but I mean prodigious in his output
theorems and laws and papers and you
know teaching and not just in the world
of physics and math but also in the
world of politics and religion and
social justice I mean he was very very
very very quick and he multitasked all
the time and he always said words to the
effect of I can do more than one thing
at once because I’m called to do more
than one thing at once but I’d do it in
a way that looks fluid and it feels
fluid to me so that was one example then
there was the example one of my favorite
Michael Crichton Michael Crichton dozens
and dozens of bestselling novels novels
like the Andromeda Strain
and Jurassic Park and you know I think
it was like a total of 37 books or
something maybe 32 books I don’t forget
I forget the exact number also a whole
bunch of short stories television shows
movies screenplays you know one of my
heroes I mean Andromeda Strain was a
movie that changed everything for me in
terms of how movies look and feel you
know in the blockbusters that he came up
with you know aside from the fact that
he was a climate change denier
okay but I think we can learn from these
two examples and from the other examples
and also from just my own personal
behavior I was just observing how I move
from thing to thing and obviously we’re
on a spectrum you know the girl at the
South by Southwest thing way over here
on the you know multitasking crazy I
don’t need anybody to tell me I’m not
gonna do this I can do five things at
once I remember she said that and then
there’s the people who just can’t do
more than one thing at once and won’t so
we’re all somewhere on that spectrum and
I think that if we just take a moment
step back lose the drama lose the
frenetic energy we will be able to
multitask get things done and do so in a
way that is productive and accurate and
effective what do you think where are
you on that spectrum what do you think
about what I’ve just said are you one of
these people that has a very specific
process for doing the things that you’re
doing share it with me in the comments
below I’d love to know I really would um
I I know that what works for me isn’t
going to necessarily work for you but we
can all pick up stuff from each other I
have a feeling that’s why you’re maybe
watching these videos I don’t know maybe
that’s why oh and I want to let you know
I just got my I just noticed I haven’t
been looking at the the email from
YouTube but a few weeks ago I got my
500th subscriber you know I’ve been
doing these for about two months and I
think I had I don’t know seven
subscribers when I started I never
actually asked people to subscribe to my
channel and now all of a sudden I have
five hundred people some of whom I know
and some of whom I’ve never heard of
before him so thank you for forwarding
these emails or these these videos the
blog post URLs whatever you’re doing
because somehow or another there’s this
following forming which i think is
really cool so thank you please keep
doing that if you wouldn’t mind and do
let me know what you think about this
video in the comments below I’d love
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YouTube will play it for you that’s what
they do I’m David H Lawrence xvii I
thank you so much for watching and I
will talk to you tomorrow.



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  1. This is an interesting subject. It encompasses both psychological and physiological areas of human behavior.

    Before going further I have to reveal my bias towards the majority of studies that have proven human multitasking is illusory. There is plenty of empirical evidence to show that, even those who are seemingly performing two tasks at once, one or both of the tasks suffer in quality and the total time taken to complete the two together is greater than completing the two sequentially.

    There are interesting new experiments that seem to indicate that the mind can be trained to multitask, but only at a very young age.

    I do think you have the best advice here, though. I call it serial multitasking. It involves much more attention and focus than attacking each task until complete. Scheduling, or perhaps micro-scheduling would be very important.

    Again I insist that this process would take longer than it would to do each task individually, but the psychological boost it might give one in allowing the “feeling” of being more productive might be a bonus that keeps one engaged and productive instead of wallowing in inaction.

  2. While listening to this I was also noticing that with a darkly light room, a black shirt makes your head look like it’s floating on the screen.

    Is that multitasking or am I only being distracted?

  3. You mentioned a TED Talk, which I’m assuming it Tim Harfords. If not, have a listen; he talks about slow-motion or slow-burning multi-tasking. It’s one of my favorite TED Talks!