My daughter was applying for a job the other day and she asked me to review her letter, so of course, I asked to see what the job posting. Some of the skills that were required were as follows:

Must have ability to multi-task

  • Must be able to communicate effectively
  • Must demonstrate attention to detail

Pretty standard of many job postings…and then it occurred to me…how on earth can anyone multi-task, be an effective communicator AND pay attention to detail?

Isn’t that a bit of a dichotomy? I mean, really…if you are multi-tasking; you are NOT giving attention to detail.

I was the ‘queen’ of multi-tasking (many women are, by the way) and for years I thought I was so much more efficient as a result. I have since come to believe that it’s a rather ineffective way of doing things and I’m actually surprised by how many jobs still list it as a desirable skill.

Think about it…when a person is doing a multitude of different things at once, the error rate goes up significantly; he probably has the attention span of a gnat; and it’s highly unlikely that he is communicating ‘effectively’ because his mind isn’t processing what being said or asked of him clearly…consequently, it’s highly unlikely that a great deal of attention is being given to detail.

The more I thought about this, the more I started to consider the consequences of multi-tasking and funnily enough, I was actually falling into my old habit of multi-tasking the other night when I was getting dinner ready.  I was talking on the phone; running back and forth to the barbeque slapping barbeque sauce on the ribs; chopping the lettuce for the salad; grating the cheese; making the dressing; talking on the phone; and I’m pretty sure I was also writing a couple of envelopes out for some cards I was sending in the mail.

So, fast forward – we’re sitting down to dinner and I take a bite out of my salad – it was Caesar salad and it’s one of my favourite recipes. All of a sudden, I get this sharp taste in my mouth as if I’d eaten a kosher dill pickle and I realize – I put in a double dose of vinegar. Ugh!  At first it didn’t immediately register with me because I only vaguely remember even making the dressing because I was so busy doing a multitude of other things and I wasn’t paying attention to detail.

Much of what I think is missing in our fast-paced world today is the attention to detail that so many of us now crave. Consumers today say they want better quality products and service and yet I’m wondering how we can get that when we ask employees to multi-task. No wonder so much of what we buy today falls apart in short order – no wonder we can go into a restaurant and sit for 20 minutes before being served or even acknowledged in some cases – or we stand in a lobby waiting to book into a hotel while the desk clerk is dealing with a delivery fellow, answering the phone and giving instructions to the bellman.

No, I am not convinced that multi-tasking is quite the skill that it’s cracked up to be. For me…I’ll take the attention to detail.