parallel process(es)

Morningtime ... croissant?!I was making breakfast in a quiet household this morning.  It’s my wife’s birthday, so I let her sleep as she likes to be let.

The three children – no longer children at all – were also in the Land of Nod.

They like to sleep too.

On holiday, anyway.

And as I washed-up, made the coffee, filled the plastic bottles with mineral water from the five-litre containers and generally tidied up, I realised I am a man of parallel process(es).

My wife is not; and therein our occasional arguments.  In fact, I think the battles I’ve had as I’ve been trying to enthuse and engage people enough to participate in hyperlocal in the city where I live seem, to me anyhow, to indicate she is not alone in this world.

I am a man, and men do not multi-task as a general rule.  So they say; and if they say, they must be right.

Breakfast table ...To be honest, when you say the word “multi-task” what comes to my mind is a kind of multiple-limbed creature at the centre of a benevolent web of activity: almost an octopus in human form.  What I am, however, or what comes to mind when you ask me how I work, is rather different: my life operates more like a railway – a Christmas-excited kid’s train-set perhaps – where my tasks and responsibilities regularly criss-cross various lines: back and forth, occasionally (or maybe that’s often?!) halting at “stations” of significant interest … through beauty, through utility, through other more difficult-to-define reasons.

So what are the consequences of being a parallel processor instead of a multi-tasker?

Well.

Mainly, that multi-taskers think you’re wasting time never getting something finished.

They see the washing-up still soaking twenty minutes later, and don’t realise it’s the third set of dishes, left to soak so the detergent has time to do the work I’ve paid it to do – rather than me having to scrub furiously away at the hardened debris!

PersianasMeantime, they don’t appreciate I’ve been making coffee, filling water bottles, wandering round the house changing light-bulbs; admiring the scenery from the first floor; or just thinking – invisibly I grant you – about this or that.

My wife is a multi-tasker, yes – and a very good one at that.  I suspect many people – if not most – have lately learned to be.  They’ve had little alternative, to be honest: the strategic dumbing-down of most roles these days – as companies look to protect themselves against high staff-turnover, due to low wages and collapsing job-satisfaction – is almost certainly teaching even men to work at several discrete processes and their corresponding procedures during the course of a single day (without, that is, tragically messing things up … the real achievement of corporate multi-tasking everywhere – if not its everyday equivalent).

The downside, however, of all the above is that people who think end-to-end, or would like to be given the opportunity, are less common, less valued and – ultimately – less needed.

Until the whole house of cards tumbles down, of course … and by then, it’ll be far too late for anyone to recover the knowhow and nous.

My mistake, I think, in hindsight anyway, was not to realise that in hyperlocal it’s more important to gain people’s acceptance at a face-to-face level than achieve it via intellectual and process-driven means.

Salamanca's Town HallThis is why, even as I find myself currently on extended leave and would love to stay where I find myself, I also know for various reasons it is entirely impractical.

This is why, in the autumn, I shall return to jousting windmills as I have all my life.  My latest forays into hyperlocal and Chester are just one set of examples amongst a whole history of examples.  But really, if they are ever to become anything more substantial than windmills castles in the air, I will need to discover how to ensure the people I want to work with understand the important differences between multi-taskers like my wife (the grandiose majority – and I mean “grandiose” most sincerely) and parallel processors like myself (the sad – but also useful – minority).

There’s always a way for everyone to get on – as the Spanish say: “Hablando se entiende la gente …” (“Through speaking we understand each other …”) – so I’m not down in the mouth by any means as a result of this situation.

Again in hindsight, I’ve always been a fairly optimistic soul.

The only slight problem being we cannot live entirely on optimism.

But that’s where natural multi-taskers are always right – where parallel processors get lost in the maze of trains of thought.

Reflecting then?Reflecting then?  Well yes, that’s where I’m at right now.  But isn’t that where I’ve always been?

🙂

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