Multitasking Doers and Doubters

Opinions about multitasking are biased by your conative MO.  So is your natural ability to do it.

My recent informal survey shows over 90% of people who initiate Follow Thru actions are Doubters who consider multitasking “Bad.” They seem to have difficulty even conjuring up the possibility that multitasking is a sensible way for anyone to behave. Not surprising, since they’re naturally orderly, follow sequential patterns, and rarely deviate from a step-by-step plan.

Those with the Kolbe problem solving strength to naturally adaptresistant Follow Thrus – are the Doers who overwhelmingly praise multitasking as an “Excellent” way to get more done. They value being able to keep lots of balls in the air at one time.  Some, however, have apparently read the media tirades against doing it, and just give it an “OK.” One poor guy said he knew it was “Bad” – but he couldn’t keep himself from doing “it.”

Natural multitaskers have been criticized since grade school by their predominantly Follow Thru insistent teachers. How-to study, how-to plan a project, how-to do just about anything is generally taught through an anti-multitasking approach. When’s the last time you heard an instructor say: “Go ahead and try this while you’re also doing something you actually enjoy doing.”

Multitaskers have had to put up with:

  • a university professor (who admits he couldn’t multitask if he wanted to)
  • who studied just 12 students from one pysc class
  • with a cognitive test (had to have right answers on both math and language questions when topics kept switching)
  • and came to the conclusion that switching mental focus takes too much time
  • which resulted in media headlines that trashed multitasking

[See: Why Most Persistent Multitaskers Perform Badly (NY Times):]

I won’t call my survey “research.”  But it’s been interesting. I asked thousands of people to rate multitasking on a scale from Excellent to OK or Bad.

To date:

Only one person known to be an insistent Follow Thru rated multitasking as “Excellent.”

Over 90% resistant Follow Thrus rated multitasking as “Excellent.”

Any one want to participate in a “blind” study, where people rate the value of multitasking before they know their Kolbe result, then find out their result later?


You’re multitasking when you simultaneously:

Listen to a lecture while writing on another topic

Change a diaper while talking w/ another child

Pull weeds while BBQing and talking on the phone

Fix machinery while teaching someone how to do it

Watch a movie while text messaging and eating popcorn

The non-multitasker is like a guy I know —  a 9 in Follow Thru — who is constitutionally unable to carry on a conversation and put food on his fork at the same time. Or the accountant who can’t be responsible for the accuracy of her numbers if she has to answer the phone while doing the books.

No-Multitasking Tasks

Switching what you’re thinking about is a cognitive process. Doing multiple things at one time is a conative process. Creativity requires using both processes.

A No-Multitasking Task is one that for safety or common sense reasons, requires your full cognitive attention – with little switching and no conative multitasking.

For instance: You ought not to be striving for creativity when you’re driving a car. That’s an example of a No-Multitasking Task. So is reading the dose when giving medicine, listening to or giving directions, using a dicing mandoline or acetylene torch.

Conables ™ Tips for Multitaskers

When multitaskers’ form of creativity is inappropriate and disapproved (most standardized testing, and way too many classrooms and meetings), it’s important for them to learn Conables ™ Tricks for turning this so-called disadvantage into an advantage. Better to make it a game than lose your competitive advantage.

In a classroom or meetings

  • Imagine the speaker is the leader of a rock band, and watch every move she’s making — so you can come in with the right tune (answer or question) at the right time.
  • Pick three rather unusual words that interest you. Guess how often they’ll be used during one session, then count to see how close you were.
  • Write brief descriptions of the emotions or thoughts that you think are going on in others peoples’ heads. Tie them to specific people.

You’ll find Conables Tips that tie to your MO on your Kolbe A ™ Index result. Stick to those that are recommended. (I take no responsibility for some of the dangerous ones others make-up!)


Filed under Business

7 responses to “Multitasking Doers and Doubters

  1. Marilyn Seltzer

    Love the conables.
    Keep them coming!

    • Kathy

      I’m devoting a great deala of my time to writing Conables(tm) Tips and tricks. Wait ’til you see the new parenting Conables tips that David Kolbe and I have been working on. They should be available in the next couple of months.

  2. as a 2495, I though it was just fun & normal to juggle things until my fun 4293 hubbie distracted even my juggling needs….and my 7923 sister is finally starting to cope with my (totally irresponsible) hubby, after totally disapproving of him for 34 years… she thinks it might be good to plan for a little spontaneity in her schedule…man this stuff is good!

  3. When you resist your instinctive way of being you suffer, and so does your quality of work. Some are conatively wired to multi-task, and others are not, as you describe in your blog. Managers would do well to work with their employees to create the goal, then turn them loose to achieve that goal according to their own instinctive way of getting the job done. The result will be a better result in less time, with less stress and more enjoyment!


  4. Casey Burns

    4,3,8,4 – Multi-tasking is a significant contributor to my success in both sales and operations roles. Operations? Yes operations! I currently live in a world that demands compliance, policy adherence, process, procedure, work instructions – and I thrive in that environment. I thrive because I am in a management role that requires that I constantly shift gears to meet challenging business problems. In many cases, I am met with disapproval for my willingness to change directions on a whim, juggle multiple issues at once, or make decisions based on the flavor of the day. I will argue, as a resistent follow-thru, that business leaders need to instinctually manage many opportunities all at the same time – even those that don’t mean as much to them – but mean the world to those they are managing. A resistent follow-thru provides the bandwith necessary to affect significant change through constant exploration of ideas, concepts, and intiatives.

  5. Hi webmaster – This is by far the best looking site I’ve seen. It was completely easy to navigate and it was easy to look for the information I needed. Fantastic layout and great content! Every site should have that. Awesome job

  6. Mark

    I have tried all my life to not multi task and especially in meeting. On a recent project I was always in trouble for this.. stop playing with your mobile.. stop taking notes etc. However I am very new to the Kolbe concepts and I am now even looking at different careers, don’t know what yet..

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