Dr. Hannah Rose reminds us that the term “multitasking” is indeed an established word in the English language1. She’s a neuroscientist and founder of the Ness Labs cognitive learning community. But she also reminds us that the word made its debut in the 1960s and was related to computers performing more than one task at once (computer capability seems obvious, but it was the ’60s when it wasn’t so obvious just yet).
“Multitasking” was never meant to be equated with workplace productivity yet it has become synonymous with that for some time. In fact, “multitasking productivity” is an oxymoron. The two words contradict each other.
Can we walk and chew gum at the same time?
Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell describes multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one1.”
That’s an important distinction… “not as effectively.” Doesn’t mean it can’t be done. But it can’t be done as well.
Here’s one way to think of it…
Can the owner of a marketing agency effectively create a new business model that refocuses and streamlines the strategic direction of the company in the wake of a pandemic and a recession at the same time his creative department is complaining about the lack of cohesive skills within the in-house staff. Such as a full web-development team?
Or, can the owner run the agency well while the HR director reports issues related to the exorbitant costs associated with recruiting, onboarding, and compensating full-time associates with salary and benefits? Or, while managing all the freelancers required to complete projects, should the agency choose to not hire full-time?
Of course not.
It’s hard to create a refocused business model with all that noise in the background.
Single-tasking is what agency owners and leadership do best.
Specializing in a certain industry niche.
Turning strategy into revenue.
Honing marketplace intelligence.
Developing intellectual property.
This is what you should be focused on.
The power of an agency is intelligence and creativity. This is in contrast to the commoditized production-oriented tasks (such as web development and maintenance) that a client could go buy elsewhere. This is the difference between exclusive thought and execution tasking.
In the example mentioned above, let’s not short-shrift the work and skills involved. Web dev can be extremely complex and time-consuming. It takes digital expertise. It takes artistic talent. It’s written in a host of different coded languages most individuals do not even wish to know. It takes a cast of dozens of experts at times.
But, it’s production. A commodity. And one you can outsource.
A commodity that can be handled by a trusted outsource that is a true expert at it. All of the skills within one resource, such as developers, admins, project managers, analysts, designers, SMEs, QAs, SEO, UI/UX, database people, illustrators, and 3D renderers. All managed offsite, out of the agency’s hair, through one point of contact.
Taken off the shelf and put back on as needed. 100 percent productivity. At a wholesale price. As low as $39 an hour.
One that can offer up such a fine finished product and efficient margin for resale that the agency owner can value-price the service offering and make more money on it than handling it in-house anyway.
Agency leadership and its strategic thought remain as the core, or hub of the agency… located on-site. And the spokes radiating outward from the core are support staff that can be added flexibly, only as needed… located at an offsite outsource.
Core-flex staffing. It’s what enables the power of single-tasking.
—Jeremy Clarkson, English Broadcaster
Multi-tasking is the ability to screw everything up simultaneously.
- Dr. H. Rose, “Single-tasking: the power of focusing on one task at a time”, Ness Labs, https://nesslabs.com/single-tasking, data pulled Dec 30, 2022.