In Praise of Multi-Tasking

I have a blog.
And I am writing a book.
And I am leading a business.
And I speak at conferences.
And I support an election campaign.
And I am in a relationship.
And I have children.
And I love reading books.

And I consider these my ongoing projects.

Again and again, I read blog posts from people claiming that it is not smart to be working on multiple projects at the same time. Multi-tasking is bad for you, they say. It is better to work on projects one-at-a-time… Or the fewer projects the better, they say.

OK, so first I would have to start and finish writing my blog.
Then I should work on my book, for one thousand hours straight.
And only after my book is finished, I would start my business.
And only after resigning from that business, I could choose:
Either speak at conferences or read 500 books.


Allow me to repeat my favorite mantra:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong…” – H.L. Mencken

I cannot write more than 6 hours per day, or else I go crazy.
I cannot write a book without getting feedback from readers on my blog.
I cannot support an election campaign without experience as a blogger.
I cannot speak at conferences without reading books.
I cannot write a blog without experience from running a business.
And I cannot happily run a business without a loving partner.

You see?

My many projects support each other. I do my projects well because I have other projects going on at the same time. I don’t care about loss of performance due to some task-switching. I do care about the much greater performance increases due to cross-pollination.

The multi-tasking-is-bad-for-you message is clear, simple, and wrong.

Let’s start acknowledging that life is more complex than that.

(image by helico)

This article will be part of the book Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. You can follow its progress here.

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