Looking For the Perfect-Tasker

October 29, 2008

What do you value more … the quality of your work or getting the job done?

Does the word “perfectionist” ring a bell? How about “multi-tasker”? Chances are, you know someone who clearly fits into one of these categories. You either completely relate to them or they drive you crazy. And what if that someone is you?

For those of us who fall into the ‘perfectionist’ category, we drive ourselves to exhaustion perfecting the quality of everything we do. When we see the imminent deadline looming around the corner, our stress level goes through the roof; however, it is impossible for us to conceive of completing a less than perfect ‘thing’.  So inevitably we fall behind schedule. We will then make excuses for taking longer and justify our reasoning by priding ourselves on the fabulous quality of our work.

Those of us who fall into the ‘multi-tasking’ guru’s category feel we are wasting time if we are not multi-tasking. For us meeting the deadline is not enough, we need to complete our work ahead of schedule. And, not just meet the deadline ahead of schedule, but complete five extra tasks at the same time.

Is either attribute productive, and is it possible to mesh the two for a healthier, more effective and efficient characteristic? Let’s explore further …

Perfectionists tend to focus on the minutia of every detail, of every aspect, of every project they’re involved in. They succumb to micromanaging projects. They are extremely critical of themselves and therefore others. In their minds, if they are not doing the work themselves it cannot possibly be done to their exceptionally high standards. They certainly dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’, but to what or whose detriment? If you suffer from extreme perfectionism you will miss the big picture, overlook other options and possibilities, obsess over insignificant details, lose spontaneity, have difficulty appreciating efforts, and fail to celebrate the finished product because it will never be good enough. How stressful & unfulfilling this must be!

Multi-taskers tend to juggle as many projects as possible in any given time. It is not accurate to accuse a multi-tasker of being unfocused since they are extremely focused on 10 different things at the same time. Is this even possible? Apparently, multitasking is a misnomer, since the brain is not able to focus on two tasks at once. When you try, a kind of bottleneck occurs in your brain and you become less efficient than if you were to finish one task before starting another. However, proud multi-taskers will disagree with this statement. Besides, it is more important to finish the work than worry about all the details! Unfortunately, sometimes details do matter and an extreme multi-tasker will lose sight of things falling through the cracks, appear sloppy or uncaring and spend more time redoing or revising tasks because they were not finished correctly. Lastly, they may forget to smell the roses because they are too busy watering, pruning and planting other flowers at the same time.

It is my opinion that neither perfectionist nor multi-tasker is a productive attribute independent of each other. And taken to an extreme, both can be unhealthy, ineffective and inefficient characteristics. However, if we find a way to effectively mesh the two we may have an amazing quality, the Perfect-Tasker!

Please share your experiences with perfectionism or multi-tasking. Does it work for you? What challenges have you encountered? Have you discovered the path to becoming a Perfect-Tasker? … we will discuss this path in an upcoming blog …