Multitasking Money - Part 2
Updated: Mar 28
“Joe can't walk and chew gum at the same time”
- President Lyndon Johnson
“Joe can't walk and chew gum at the same time” is the censored version of what President Lyndon Johnson once said of then Congressman Gerald Ford. The original, obviously said in private conversation, which was attested to by John Kenneth Galbraith was “can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.” This is thought to be an old expression that was common in Johnson’s home state of Texas. In any case, by the time Ford became president after Richard Nixon’s resignation, the phrase had been laundered to its present form. The expression had nothing to do with Ford’s infamous fall because that would have been an indication of clumsiness and not stupidity. However, Chevy Chase’s famous 1970s ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoof of Ford made him out to be both clumsy and stupid. (Courtesy of wordwizard.com)
Multitasking is a hot topic these days. We are constantly told that we need to do more than one thing at a time to be productive. But does multitasking actually help? Does Multitasking apply to finance and investing?
Multitasking has been around for centuries, but it wasn't until the early 1900s that it began to be used with computers. Computers have always been good at multitasking. They can handle multiple tasks at the same time without getting overwhelmed. This makes them perfect for multitasking environments like offices and classrooms. But what about humans? What about Money?
The Solution or The Problem?
Can humans multitask like computers can? Many people believe that humans are capable of multitasking. But research shows that this is not actually the case. In fact, when we try to do multiple things at once, we actually end up doing all of them worse.
In the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology1, researchers found that multitasking can actually make you less productive. They tested three groups of people - those who multitasked, those who focused on one task at a time, and those who switched tasks every few minutes. The results showed that the group who multitasked performed the worst, while the group who focused on one task at a time performed the best.
The American Psychological Association reviewed over 100 studies on multitasking and found that it results in: lower task performance, worse memory, increased stress and an inability to focus.
If multitasking makes you less productive, why do we do it? Well, partly it's because we think multitasking makes us more efficient - multitasking feels productive. We think we can get more done if we're doing multiple things at once. But that's not always the case. And it's partly because we're conditioned to do it. Our brains are hardwired to jump from one task to the next, and it's become increasingly difficult to focus on just one thing. The more tasks we do at once, the more dopamine we release in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good, and it's addictive.
If multitasking isn't always the best way to be productive, how can we be more productive?
Solution – Option A
One way is to STOP MULTITASKING! Rather:
1. Start with the most important task.
2. Set time limits for each task.
3. Take breaks between tasks.
4. Avoid distractions while working.
5. Use technology to help you stay focused.
6. Break down large tasks into smaller chunks.
7. Try to focus on one thing at a time.
Solution – Option B
Alternatively, we can attempt to “kill two birds with one stone.” I found on knowyourphrase.com a definition and potential source for this classic saying. The term kill two birds with one stone is a phrase that means to achieve two different goals in a single action. The origin of the phrase ‘kill two birds with one stone’ is unclear, however, one theory for how it might have originated is from hunting. Birds are killed during hunting, after all. Oftentimes a hunter uses a gun or a knife to accomplish this, but a blunt object like a stone could be effective too. How would the hunter kill two birds with one stone? He could just sneak up on some unsuspecting birds and throw it at one of them, then pick it up and repeat. Simple enough.
However, this phrase might also derive from an older, similar expression that goes “to stop two gaps with one bush.” This older expression appears in The Proverbs of John Heywood, 1546: “I will learn to stop two gaps with one bush.” A little more than a century later, the phrase “two birds, one stone” is seen in a work by Thomas Hobbes called The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance, 1656: “T. H. thinks to kill two birds with one stone, and satisfy two Arguments with one answer, whereas in truth he satisfieth neither.” While this phrase dates back to 1656, making it at least 360 years old a modern-day example could better make a case: I want to lose weight and have more energy. By including healthier foods into my diet, I think I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
Basically, rather than stop multitasking we can accomplish multiple tasks and goals with a single action and be way more productive A simple example would be how I used my Customer Relationship Management tool to send out my newsletter email to hundreds of prospects or clients rather than manually create and send each email. It is only practical to 'kill two birds with one stone' when solving more than one problem at once if the solutions are related.
Investing is a lot like multitasking in some ways. For example, an investor might have a diversified stock portfolio and be monitoring several different markets at the same time. Another example would be an investor who is also doing their own research on potential investment opportunities. In both cases, the investor is trying to accomplish two goals at the same time. They are trying to maximize their returns while minimizing their risk.
One problem for most people is that this multitasking is actually a second level of multitasking! Most people have a job and a life that requires time and attention. Asking them to add another task of investment research is already a multitasking request.
When you have multiple savings goals, it can be like trying to multitask. You might feel like you're not making progress on any of them because you're constantly switching gears. But if you break your goals down into smaller, more manageable tasks, you'll be able to focus on each one and make progress.
For example, if you're saving for a new car and a vacation, you could break it down like this: save $100 per week for the car and save $100 per week for the vacation. If you focus on each goal separately, you'll be able to reach them both in time. And by breaking your goals down into smaller tasks, you'll make it easier to stay motivated and focused. So don't be afraid to have multiple savings goals. Just break them down into smaller pieces and it becomes much more manageable.
In reality that does not always work. What if you do not have enough money to save for all of those goals? What if some goals are long term while others are short term? Some investments are not liquid investments like a 401k yet many goals require liquidity. Some investments project higher returns, but not all goals can handle the volatility that usually goes with it!
Imagine there was a solution which allows you to put away more money, be able to access it as needed and not worry about market volatility! Talk about making your money multitask while you only single task! What are you waiting for? To learn more about how you can make your money multitask, continue reading.
By Alan J. Mendlowitz, RICP, CRES
1- Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, Chapter 3- MultiTasking Behavior; https://interruptions.net/literature/Spink-AnnRevInfoSciTech08.pdf