Multi-tasking, male and female differences

'I can only do one thing at a time, what do you want done first, don’t confuse me'. 

How many things can you do at once?

Multi-tasking is something that women think they are good at and men think is just confusing.

We haven’t moved terribly far from our cave dwelling days. While men were out hunting, focusing completely on catching supper, women were guarding the cave, watching the children, cooking the meal and protecting the home from invaders – multi-tasking.

One thing at a time please.

I know that my partner gets very confused when I ask him to do more than one thing at a time. I assume that if he is in the kitchen putting the kettle on for a cup of tea he will have time, while the kettle is boiling, to take out the recycling and put the washing into the drier. NO. Which to I want him to do? If a second thing is added to the list then often the first thing is forgotten. Our brains are just wired differently.

 Is it just a myth?

Naturally scientific experiments have been undertaken on the subject of male and female reactions to multi-tasking.

In one trial individuals were given a number of tasks to do. The setting was a kitchen. The subjects had to make tea and toast, iron a shirt, pack a bag and take a phone call. The women - and most gay men - were much more successful at completing the task quickly and efficiently.

The majority of men would stop one task to start the next one, leading to burned toast, burned shirt and unpacked bag – which more or less proved the point.

 In another experiment a room was laid out with furniture and smaller items such as pictures, umbrella, walking stick, ornaments.

Each subject was given a set length of time to look at the room and then most items were removed and the subject was sent in to put everything back in place.

One added complication was that there was a selection of similar items not just one of each. The results showed that while the women put almost everything in its rightful place it wasn't necessarily the correct item. It might be a picture but not the correct picture .

On the other hand the men put back fewer items but they were the correct ones. So a less clear-cut result and illustrating that multi-tasking isn't always the ideal solution.

How this impacts in the workplace.

When working with business groups I find the multi-tasking versus one job at a time frequently comes up.

Women complain that their manager (male) gives them one thing to do and when they say they want more they are told to come back when the first task is complete. My female delegates explain that in the process of doing the first task they often have to wait for information from other people and it is frustrating to have nothing else to be getting on with while they wait for that information.

 On the other hand many of the men complain about having a manager (female) who asks them to do something, then comes along – before they have completed it – and asks them to do something else. They see this as unreasonable and even on some occasions say it indicates that a woman manager doesn't have as organised a mind as a man.

My personal solution.

This can cause tensions – both in the workplace and at home – and the only solution as I see it, is understanding the way the opposite sex likes to work and try to make it easy for them to do so.

I find making a list and putting priorities on it works for my partner, while he just stands and watches in disbelief as I cook a meal, do a back up onto my laptop while making a phone call!

Viva la difference. 

If you enjoyed multi-tasking then return to male v female communication

How good is your partner at multi-tasking?

Tell us your story of multi-tasking.
Is your partner better at it than you?
is multi-tasking a good thing?

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