I remember explaining, sometime in the last few months, that I enjoy multitasking and that I’m good at it. The person I patiently explained this to replied that I was likely some sort of dopamine junkie, and, citing a New York Times article, suggested I wasn’t as multitasking as I thought I was.

Having read the original study that the article was based on — don’t get me wrong, I like the NYT as much as anyone, even if their paywall can be rendered #fail by a 14 year old and his 4 lines of code — I both agree and disagree.

Yes, the “high” one gets from multitasking is a result of dopamine and the checklist mentality. You can also get other hormonal highs from equally “productive” sources: sex (or a hug, if you’re female) releases oxytocin (not oxycontin, that you have to get from your doctor). Exercise releases endorphins. Hormones aren’t really bad things, it’s the regulating of them that is required.

Having sensitivity to caffeine and a disinclination to consume enough alcohol to render me useless, as well as the physical limitation on how many hugs I will allow my personal space bubble to accommodate, dopamine is all I’ve got left. I can release it by shopping, or playing online scrabble, or working.

A lot.

Lately, however, I’ve been privileged (if that’s the word) to work with others who *cannot* multitask effectively. These folks do not necessarily work in my company — or even in my field, technically — but they are folks I have to deal with on a semiregular basis for the various projects I have on my Very Large Checklist. It has brought to my attention the severe need for Multitasking Etiquette, which I hereby present to you in rough draft.

1. It is understood that if you’re dialing in for a conference call, you may pause to take notes and so forth. It’s a good idea to put yourself on MUTE when you do — or when you are chewing, or swallowing, or chatting with your neighbor, etc. Putting the conference call on HOLD, however, results in us all hearing your hold music. Please don’t do that. We’ll send you notes if you’re that busy.

2. It is understood that if you’re dialing in for a conference call, and you missed something due to multitasking, that all you have to do is say, “Sorry, I missed that. Can you rephrase that?”. We know you missed it, that’s fine, and you give us the option to rephrase. Lovely. Do not, however, say, “Um, what do you mean, exactly?” It leaves us in the position of guessing that you actually missed it, but somehow you’re blaming us.

3. It’s really, really rude to paraphrase in explanation for someone else. That is something they should be able to do for themselves.

4. Also topping the rude list? Arriving to the con call 5-10 minutes late and asking everyone to check in and/or rehash what was covered. Double rude if you’re the one who called the meeting.

5. Sending an email reply one week TO THE DAY after the due date and then wondering why your feedback wasn’t used and/or taken into account? Not ok.

6. Asking people to work the weekend and/or check in on their holiday, and then not doing so, PARTICULARLY if you’re on the same level as they are, is not ok.

7. Asking people to work the weekend and then extending the deadline but not telling anyone until Monday morning is also poor form.

8. Sending multiple email missives about the project in a given day, each with updates over the last one, instead of one nice coherent email (per day, or even per TWO days), sucks.

9. Sending meeting announcements for when my calendar already has an appointment also sucks. There’s space there and I’m available from 6am-10pm PDT. You should be able to find *something*.

10. It’s good to have an agenda. It is even better if you follow it.

1 thought on “Multitasking”

  1. And if you are hosting the Web-Ex, for heaven’s sake, learn how to use it first! Training during the middle of a meeting is highly frowned upon unless it is a training meeting for Web-Ex! Same goes for any application you may be using during the Web-Ex. if you need to use Excel, learn how to use it before the meeting! Quit pushing my buttons! LOL

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