Spitting on the Myth of Multi-Tasking

Spitting on the Myth of Multi-Tasking

Written by Charlotte DiBartolomeo, M.A. conflict transformation and organizational leadership. 


Among the seventy-six emails I received within the last twenty-four hours, the one that gave me the most pause was entitled, “Let’s Face it, Success Means Staying Hyper-connected.”



Woah! Red Flag Alert! Anything that tells me to be hyper, has a “run, don’t walk” effect on my gut. And yet, I felt the need to read the coverage of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, where Wendy Clark, powerhouse executive from Coca Cola, and Snapchat’s Emily White spoke about staying at the top of the game and apparently making time for family life when you do. Sadly, their advice perpetuated a few myths.


First Myth: “ Forget a balance between work and self. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Fact: When you are dead, you do not sleep. Sleeping allows us to dream, to create meaning and to make sense of our days, to recover, and to restore. There is no dreaming when we are dead, no recovering from death, no restoration to return to the present life we’re leading.

Second Myth: We can spend more time with our family now because we all have Smart Phones that allow us to stay connected with our business associates. So, when an important email comes in while playing miniature golf with the kids, just tell your kids you need ten minutes and you’ll be back. Fact: When we’re answering an email on our phones during a game of miniature golf with our children, we are no longer with our children. And our children are experiencing us as absent while we turn our attention to someone more important than them.

man working with baby

Third Myth: Writing emails on the weekend, but saving those emails as drafts and sending them on Monday will give our associates a healthier boundary for work relationships. Fact: While this may be true for relationships with others, we’re forgetting the most important relationship we have: the one we have with ourselves.

Doing work on the weekend hurts the relationship we so often neglect in order to “succeed.” Taking time to really disconnect, to sit on a park with a book, not a cell phone will lower your heart rate, and engage your prefrontal cortex rather than your limbic brain, which is driving you in hyper mode because it believes your very survival is at stake. And when you’re in survival mode, your brain is kicking out copious amounts of noradrenalin and cortisol, which, over a long period of time, break down our bodies and cause heart disease and cancer.

woman exhausted working

I get it. I run a company. The struggle to meet deadlines, create new projects, manage employees and enact the vision of your organization makes it damned hard to have a personal life. In the frenetic, corporate cracked Glass Ceiling of 2014, women still have to beat that glass with a rock to squeeze through. It’s no wonder Emily White and Wendy Clark are in hyper drive. No wonder every female and male high-level executive is multi-tasking through children’s soccer games and anniversary dinners. We’ve all been prompted to step it up and be connected ALL THE TIME. It erodes relationships with our spouses, our children and most profoundly, the relationship we have with ourselves. So I’m going to say something very unpopular: When my generation was coming up, the big question was, “Can women have it all?” We answered the question with an emphatic YES! I would still agree, we can have it all and do it all. But none of us, neither women nor men, can do it all at the same time. If you think I’m off my rocker, then just check out this new article by Dr.Travis Bradberry, in Forbes about Stanford research studies showing how multi-tasking is destroying our brains.

A bit about the author: Charlotte has raised two sons into adulthood, both of whom spearhead different branches of the consulting firm she started in 2008.  She has developed and taught a graduate certificate at Arcadia University, and guest lectures at the graduate level at University of Penn. She has run seminars, workshops, and delivered consulting to some of the top organizations in the world, including Apple, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Department of State, and the Red Cross.


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