Oops! The Cost of Multitasking

woman talking on phone and checking messages during working on the computer

Through detailed scientific investigation, I determined the cost of multitasking to be $49.95. US. What’s that, $70 Canadian? Ouch.

Like any academic endeavour, I started with a hypothesis. I predicted that while the guy on the webinar was introducing his topic, I could scroll through Instagram on my phone. And answer a few quick emails in another window. My methods involved leaning back in my chair, scrolling Insta with my left hand (a talent perfected with practice) and moving my computer mouse with my right. My ears were engaged (theoretically) with the webinar. I chose a time of day (not really, the webinar schedule was not within my control) when one cat was sleeping and the other satisfied with an occasional pat with my foot. The only unusual aspect of the experimental design was that I had no food or beverages with me, an oversight I will rectify in future studies.

The results of the experiment were *slightly* disappointing. While I assumed the webinar was covering material I already knew, and the emails I opened all seemed to be group messages or from mailing lists … I clicked on a 70% off sale on an Instagram ad.

I am well aware of the unreliability of Instagram ads. I also have prior experience with a fraudulent shopping website that took a minimum of fifty emails and a dozen phone calls over a period of a year to resolve. I am a careful, intentional shopper, not interested in cluttering up my home (except recently, with comfy clothes for multitasking from home.)

So, I’d be too wise to buy a name brand item at a price that was too good to be true, right?

I would not.

Or, to be blunt, I would be, if I weren’t trying to do three or four things at once. The experimental conditions were my undoing.

I do love good outdoor wear, and that jacket did have all the features I drool over. Solid brand name, great reviews, underarm zippers – better click that PayPal button before my size is sold out. How savvy I felt, catching that sale in time!

Of course, PayPal told me I’d just sent my money to a company in China with an email address along the lines of xccsdo23l4lkj@outlook.com for a purchase of “cart”. You will be shocked to hear that no one from that email replied to my request to cancel the order.

At some future point, when I do or don’t receive a jacket that bears no resemblance to the one I naively ordered, I can handle (or not) the reporting and refund route, that’s not the point really.

The point is, we all know we can’t do three things at once and do any of them well. I missed almost all of the webinar as I realized how dumb I’d been and tried unsuccessfully to fix it. I left emails on “read” for a long time and when I did get around to replying, I was not in a great frame of mind. And I wasted a fair chunk of money I may not get back.

Focus

Pick one thing and do it as though it’s the only thing you have to do all day. You will do it well, and probably save yourself a few bucks while you’re at it.

You probably already know this, and so do I. I just paid $49.95 to learn the lesson again.

enjoy some unrelated peaceful pix, just because they’re pretty 🙂

6 thoughts on “Oops! The Cost of Multitasking

  1. A very timely reminder as my mind flits around thinking about all the things I want/have to do today. “Pick one thing and do it well” will be my mantra, thank you Karen. Hope you’re doing OK.

    1. Thanks, Julie. We’re fine here, in another lockdown without feeling like the first one ever ended. I blame the blur of work and home life for some of my mental fog, and I’m sure the constant uncertainty doesn’t help. But none of that will matter if I stick to doing one thing at a time!! Have a great day 🙂

      1. You’ve put into words my feelings exactly, Karen. While I’m grateful to have been able to work throughout all the lockdowns, it can be challenging to delineate work and home. Hope you have a great day, too.

    1. Thanks, Jason 🙂 I laughed when I saw your post (after I’d done mine) that same day – mine was a flippant example of the exact opposite of the peace of mind you wrote about!

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