You can’t multitask. And no, you’re not the exception. You may think you are. You’re not. If you think you can type while listening to someone talk, or drive while talking on your cell phone, you’re mistaken. What you can do is flit back and forth. For the moment your attention focuses on one, it ignores the other. That’s why while typing you miss crucial bits of the conversation, and while talking on your cell phone you drive no more safely than the alcohol-impaired. (I won’t prove it here. If you don’t believe me, read the highly informative and entertaining The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.)
But if your job is to be creative, flitting can be productive. If, that is, you do it properly.
Can’t come up with the headline for that ad you’re working on? In his book :59 Seconds (also highly recommended), psychologist Richard Wiseman presents tests showing that the wrong way out of a creative block is to let your mind idle. So don’t take a walk or sit on a window ledge dangling your feet outside. Instead, turn your attention to another mental task. Set that headline aside and edit a paragraph or two on, say, that web post you’re doing for a different client. When you return to the headline, there’s a good chance that a solution will more readily pop into your head.
At the risk of giving away my secrets, this approach has worked for me many a time.