Multitasking is often seen as the pinnacle of efficiency, but this is a myth. It is completely counterproductive for both your efficiency and your concentration. This article aims to debunk the multitasking myth.
In this day and age of instant technology, we are bombarded with constant stimulation that leaves us finding it increasingly difficult to just put our full attention on that one thing we need to do.
The Myth of Multitasking
Multitasking is often seen as the pinnacle of efficiency – think of TV hedge fund managers and bankers, stomping up and down rooms filled with countless screens, yet still finding time to deal with wedding anniversaries and children’s birthdays. Unfortunately, that’s a myth: trying to do fifty things (or even just two) simultaneously will do you no good at all.
In a recent study, the University of Michigan found that barely any human brains are capable of the fundamental multi-tasking principles. Not even women can handle that many neurological inputs and outputs at the same time. Their psychologists found that time is lost in every switch or swap between subjects. Rather catchily, they’ve termed this the switching cost, and it’s the problem. They describe it as a form of procrastination that we indulge in to avoid getting round to focussing on any particular task.
How to Stop Yourself from Multitasking
So how do you deal with it? First and foremost: put Facebook/Twitter to death, shut off your email, make your phone scarce and hold a purge at the expense of anything else that will get between you and your task. These don’t just clog up the mind with too many options, they provide a far more appealing alternative that you can gradually bias your efforts towards.
If you’ve such a thing as a ‘to do’ list, treat it as such. Arrange it by importance and then work down the list, taking each in turn and completing it fully before embarking upon the next.
Beware of your brain’s corrupting reasoning: ‘that will be easier once I’ve done some of that’, ‘it won’t do any harm if I check my emails’ and so on. You’re trying to do a job, so don’t let yourself be persuaded otherwise. You might even want to try closing your eyes and doing some simple breathing exercises to keep you fully present and in a state where you feel less influenced by distractions (the sort of thing that coffee might traditionally do, but I’d better avoid that here).
When new things come in, add them to your list – don’t be diverted by them. If something’s so urgent that it can’t wait, put away whatever you were doing (perhaps with some notes so you can get back into it quickly), and allow the new job to jump the queue to the top of your list.
This Modern Communications Culture Won't Subside Anytime Soon
We’re still getting used to the chaos of communications and information revolution and progress is, as yet, slow. So maybe we would be better off if we stopped showing off about what great multitaskers we are and start re-learning how to do one thing at a time.