Multitasking Meets Its Match

May 04, 2020
By Matt Cohen, CFP®, CIMA®

For most of my professional career — and adult life for that matter — the ability to deftly juggle multiple tasks at once was a skill set I was quite proud of. However, the collision of work and personal lives associated with social distancing and stay-at-home orders has severely tested my finely honed skills. Entering into this brave new world, I believed my mastery of multitasking would be a beacon of hope in an otherwise stressful period. This notion was quickly put to rest on the first “shelter-in-place” day, when my juggling skills met its match — my 17-month old daughter, Ava. Two working parents and no day care were no match for this little one.

I quickly learned that Ava was uninterested in reviewing stock charts or reading about the CARES Act. Asking my wife to watch Ava while the market was open was a non-starter. We both needed to stay employed and I didn’t want to sleep on the couch. Within a few days we were able to get into somewhat of a rhythm, but that also made my work day a bit disjointed. We established a rotating schedule of “Ava duty” throughout the day. This made it important to prioritize tasks, “what did I need to accomplish in the next hour or two.” 

What I have realized is that our days were always disjointed; think of those impromptu meetings, client calls, etc. Speaking with my colleagues, even those without parenting pressures feel the constant pull of working when we are home and the office is so near. Without face-to-face communication, everything has an air of urgency about it. 

I have learned over the past month that the most important thing you should be doing at any given moment is whatever you happen to be doing at that moment (particularly during a diaper change). When I’m on Ava duty, she needs my undivided attention. As much as I would love to have her play behind me while I rebalance a portfolio, she could be falling off the couch or down the stairs. That’s not good parenting, and we both suffer. When I’m back to work, noise cancellation headphones allow me to focus on helping our clients through the current market environment. 

Think about how often we don’t give someone or something our undivided attention. A colleague comes into your office for a quick chat and you finish an email while talking to them. Your friend or spouse is talking to you while you are texting someone else. Wouldn’t it have been better to concentrate on the in-person communication? Perhaps prioritizing communication and focusing more on each separate task will be an end result of working from home.

I can tell you for myself, multitasking will be a casualty of the pandemic.

Meet Matt Cohen, CFP®, CIMA® »

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