Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Have you ever stopped to consider why employers highly value employees who are very adept at multitasking? If you have ever seen a one-man band, then you may understand why.  For you see, one-man bands may present perfect examples of how people attempted to multitask in the workplace as far back as the thirteenth century.

Most likely, some forms of multitasking have been around from the beginning of human existence.  Nonetheless, as it is with numerous other basic human abilities, most people remain inept at multitasking, especially when in the workplace. Thus, there is a high value placed upon those who can adequately multitask. However, not only do the one-man bands exemplify antiquated efforts at multitasking in the work place, they also demonstrate why most modern day people are still inept at multitasking.

What it Takes to be a One-Man Band

In order to be a successful one-man band, a musician must be very adept at playing several instruments well and have a thorough knowledge of music.  To play any musical instrument well, an individual must be proficient at listening, maintaining a steady pace, diaphragm breathing, interpreting verbal and non-verbal messages, and have great eye-to hand coordination. The person must be detail-oriented, as well as be able to adapt to changes quickly.  The person must also be able to engage both sides of his or her brain simultaneously.

Moreover, the musician must be able to produce the precise sound at just the right moment, for the specific length, and in the correct order.  He or she may also have to turn pages of a music book while playing the instrument, as well as memorize numerous songs.  The person must also have a thorough knowledge of where to place his or her hands and the positioning of lips or other body parts while producing each sound.

For an individual to be a successful one-person band, he or she must be able to do all the aforementioned things for each and every instrument that the individual opts to use for the “band”.  For example, if the person chose to use a guitar, drum, and harmonica, then the individual would have to know how to produce the proper notes on all three instruments.  He or she would have to transpose the music into a key that was compatible for all three instruments, and would have to know which instrument to use to play each of the harmonized parts.  The musician would simultaneously have to be able to keep beating the drum at exactly the right pace while strumming chords on the guitar and playing the melody on the harmonica.  Some of the songs or instruments may require the musician to read music in both, bass and treble clef simultaneously. If the individual is not extremely adept at multitasking or playing each instrument, then he or she only succeeds in creating raucous noises.  He or she fails to produce any pleasant, recognizable music, thus driving away the audience.

What it takes to be Successful at Multitasking

Just as it takes a certain set of skills to be a successful one-man band, it takes certain skills to be good at multitasking in general.  The person must be able to divide his or her attention while performing several actions simultaneously.  Therefore, the person must be able to use both sides of the brain simultaneously.  The person must be proficient in time management, stress management, crisis management, communication skills, and very detailed-oriented.  Like the musician, the individual must be able to perform actions instinctively and via memorization while using conscious thoughts and various body parts to perform other actions. He or she must be good at problem-solving, as well as be very decisive.  The person must be able to see the entire situation while dealing with each smaller detail in a proper, timely manner.

Multitasking vs. Rapid Task Switching

As one can see, it takes a very special type of person to truly multitask.  In most instances, humans simply rapidly switch between several tasks, making it seem as if they are doing all the tasks simultaneously.  Even most computers do not truly multitask, despite having the term “multitasking” be coined by computer science literature.  Some psychologists think that multitasking is humanly impossible while others think that doing so would harm the brain in some ways.  Yet, there are a few jobs that do require the human to actually multitask and not just rapidly task switch.  Transcriptionists, receptionists, surgeons, musicians and chefs all must be efficient at multitasking to some degree in order to be successful. Law enforcement officers, combat soldiers, parents, teachers and childcare providers must also multitask to some degree.

Research has proven that actual multitasking can save a person money and time, if done to an adequate degree.  On the other hand, according to Wikipedia (Human Multitasking) rapid task switching has been proven to end up costing the person more time and money due to the lack of focusing on any task sufficiently. Most people make mistakes when they cannot focus their full attention on what they are doing.  So the experts at Forbes (Multitasking: Good or Bad?) recommend that people should multitask whenever possible, but avoid rapid task switching by having more than one person performing the tasks that must be done simultaneously.

So if you are trying to imitate a one-man band and do everything yourself, you may want to consider outsourcing some of the administrative tasks to a virtual office or personal assistant.  If you watch the one-man bands closely, you will see most of them are merely rapidly switching between the various instruments and seldom play the instruments simultaneously.  Listening closely to that one-man band is sufficient evidence as to why it does not pay to be chinky when it comes to delegating tasks to other people.