Sensei BBC Interview on Double Jobbing

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Unless you’ve been on another planet, you know that ‘double jobbing’ – the practice of politicians holding on to two jobs at once – is big news in the UK and Northern Ireland. We’ve been told that double jobbing is ‘on borrowed time’ as far as NI is concerned. This is after threats of pay cuts and forced resignations for those who don’t quit this bad habit.

I was interviewed on Tuesday of this week outside Stormont by the cordial Gareth Gordon and his team of professionals. Our meetup was quite funny. As I wandered in to the hallway and scanned around looking for someone who might resemble a BBC correspondent, I overhead a man say,

“Great start. The time management consultant is late!”

I wasn’t actually, thanks Gareth, but we had a good laugh over Gareth’s embarrassed protestations of innocence.

That’s right, they wanted a professional opinion of the double jobbing furore. Usually I don’t mix NI politics with business but I made an exception in this case as (a) it wasn’t party political, and (b) I do have strong feelings on the matter. As I stood outside in the rain and the wind – we weren’t allowed to do the interview inside because I’m not a member of our political elite – I tried to make the point that multi-jobbing requires multi-tasking on a grand scale, and multi-tasking is a myth. That’s right, it’s impossible, even for women. How so? Glad you asked!

  • Multi-tasking is unscientific – What’s really going on is a rapid toggling or ‘mental gear shifting’ among tasks rather than simultaneous processing, the latter being impossible for the human brain.
  • Multi-tasking is inefficient – People have a limited amount of attention available at any moment. When one’s attention is divided, something’s got to give, whether the quality or quality of your work – usually both!
  • Multi-tasking is unhealthy – Individual blood pressure and stress levels go bananas when someone attempts to multi-task for prolonged periods. We all need mental downtime to relax and reflect.

From a time management perspective, there are a few extreme strategies you can employ for multitasking. One – do the usual stuff but in less time e.g. by speed-reading. Two – do more stuff by making more time e.g. by using transition time. For myself, I feel that traditional speed reading is another myth (although smart reading isn’t). And using transition time to squeeze in extra work is a recipe for a heart attack.

Anyway, you can see the interview this Sunday (29th) on The Politics Show Northern Ireland, BBC 1, 12 noon.

If you’re interested, here are some insightful articles on the negative side of multi-tasking.

IS MULTITASKING MORE EFFICIENT? SHIFTING MENTAL GEARS COSTS TIME, ESPECIALLY WHEN SHIFTING TO LESS FAMILIAR TASKS

Multitasking Wastes Time and Money

The Multitasking Generation (TIME article)

Your brain on multitasking (blog with further reading suggestions)

So if you’re reading this article while doing somethign else…dont!

Especially if you’re a politician.