On Multitasking - Armstrong Tire

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Tuffy's Tips

Tuffy's Tips

On Multitasking

Every Friday, Tuffy fields a question that benefits from his worldly wisdom as #TheMostInterestingRhinoInTheWorld.

This week’s question is: “Hey Tuffy, between work and my personal life, I’ve got so much to do and not enough time to do it in. Any tips for how I can multitask better?”

Tuffy’s answer: “My friend, you’ve touched on a subject that many of us deal with – the overwhelming amount of stuff we need to do, and the diminishing amount of time it seems we have to do it in. The struggle is real, and frequently, the solution we turn to is to multitask. Whether it’s eating lunch while we’re working on a research report, reading and answering email messages while we’re walking to work or trying to cook dinner for our kids while we’re on a conference call (my cousin, Vinnie, tells me this, since I don’t have any children of my own!), we believe that we accomplish more by trying to cram as many things as possible into the same window of time. The trouble is, scientific research has shown that we can’t actually do two things simultaneously, even if we think we’re doing them. I didn’t need science to tell me that, of course, as I used to observe my dear Uncle Roger manifest that phenomenon. He was very fond of blacksmithing, but the only time he could actually do it was on Sunday mornings, after service. That, of course, was also when the NFL played the majority of its games, so Uncle Roger would make his own knives, chainmail and horseshoes while watching the Indianapolis Colts play their weekly game. For the most part, things would be fine, until the Colts scored a touchdown, or their secondary made a big error and gave up yards or let the opposing team score. Needless to say, that loss of attention meant that Uncle Roger ended up with a fair amount of burns on his arms from throwing his arms (and whatever workpiece he had at the time) up in the air. We’d frequently joke with Uncle Roger that he was a rhibra – part rhino, part zebra, because of the striped patterns on his arms, but that would make him sulk, and we felt horrible about that.

That experience, which is now corroborated by science, taught me about the perils of trying to multitask. What science has also taught me is beneath the illusion of multitasking, what we actually do is to switch between tasks quickly. That means that we’re not fully focused on either of the tasks that we’re working on, which results in a poorer outcome for each task. We developed this ability to switch tasks quickly because as hunters, humans had to develop the ability to both keep track of prey, and keep track of the friends who were helping them. If all they did was focus on just the prey, they might hit their friends by mistake when slinging an arrow or throwing a spear. If all they did was focus on their friends, well, I’ll leave that up to your imagination, but suffice to say, the result is not pretty. Fast forward to this day, and we delude ourselves into thinking that we can achieve a variety of things at once simply because it appears on the surface that we can. That overestimation of our capabilities can have some pretty negative consequences – unnecessary stress, avoidable mistakes, or possibly even a car crash. I’m sorry to disappoint you, my friend, as I know you were looking for a way to multitask better, but I genuinely believe that if you were to prioritize and focus on each one of the tasks that you’ve got on your list, you’ll achieve superior results for each task that you get to. I hope this helps.”

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About Tuffy

TUFFY the Rhino is more than just the Armstrong Tire mascot. On the surface, TUFFY appears to be a tough, hardened character, and arguably there is “none tougher.” In fact, he’s really a softie at heart, charming folks wherever he goes – a gentleman, for sure, but one who would equally be at home blazing frontiers as he would be dancing the waltz at a grand soirée. Often referred to as “The most interesting rhino in the world,” TUFFY has traveled the world and made many appearances representing Armstrong Tire, from advertisements co-starring stars like Lucille Ball to being featured on many eBay listings. However, he remains a simple, Midwestern rhino at heart, one that’s rooted in empathy, humility, and family values.

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