Multitasking Mayhem Usually Means Extra Work for Physicians

December 20, 2011
Jennifer Frank, MD

Multitasking is a great way to waste your valuable time producing a product which is of poor quality … but I can’t seem to stop myself.

One of the ways I try to achieve work-life balance is through multitasking. I answer a colleague’s clinical question while typing a progress note and waiting for a return call from my OB/GYN back-up. At home, I listen to one kid reading, while trying to feed another one breakfast, and direct a third to get his backpack ready solely through facial expressions. In the car, I drive while listening to the radio and scheduling my week in my brain.

As any good organizational or efficiency expert will tell you, multitasking is a great way to waste your valuable time producing a product which is of poor quality. I know this to be true, but can’t seem to stop myself.

Over the weekend, I was working on a letter of recommendation for a colleague who is looking for a new job. I carefully constructed the letter, all the while being interrupted by my husband’s questions about holiday planning and getting my preschooler set up with a movie. I quickly read through the letter when I was done, then printed it off, scanned it, and then worked through several steps to finally get it sent off to my friend. Then I saw the typo - second to last line, last paragraph. Ugh. Go back to the original, fix the typo, re-print, re-sign, re-scan, and re-email.

Just now, as I was emailing a document, I hit send before attaching the document. However, the computer stopped me with a prompt telling me that I had used the word “attach” in my e-mail but hadn’t attached a document. Did I mean to attach something? Why, yes I did, Mr. Computer. Thanks for asking me and saving me from repeating my work. I think I need some type of computer program on my life, checking in with me to find out if I really meant to do that or if I remembered that I made a cup of tea for myself 20 minutes ago that I haven’t drank yet.

Alas, it’s not to be - at least not in 2012. So, one of my many resolutions for 2012 is to “uni-task.” Spend my attention, time, and focus on one thing at a time.

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