Multi-Tasking Is Overrated!
I’m not just writing this because I’m a man and I’m supposed to struggle focusing on more than one thing at a time.
It seems that wherever we go these days there is almost a boredom associated with doing just one thing at a time. We drive the car to get to and from places and we see it as wasted space unless we can make phone calls, catch up on some CD or iPod learning or take an associate with us so we can have an informal meeting. Some busy people I know use the time to dictate letters. Others I have observed are drinking coffee, eating breakfast, putting on make-up….almost anything but concentrating on driving safely. No longer is music or the radio enough.
That kind of mentality seems to have pervaded much of our life, and not just our work life.
This is all done in the name of getting more things done quickly. It is all about efficiency. And until recently it has been applauded almost universally as a good thing.
In 2011 I wrote, “At the risk of being a lone voice in the busyness, I believe that multi-tasking has become so much a part of our lives that in some ways it has actually become detrimental to productivity”. Interestingly recent brain research is showing this t be true. Productivity has taken a huge hit due to the myth that multi-tasking aids efficiency.
For example, I go to my computer and there are so many options of what I can do. I can get the article written that I need to get published today, and I can also check my FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn messages and news feeds, and my emails. Then there is that website that I was going to check out, which has a link to another idea I was pondering recently. I also find that my computer wants to do a security check or update me to the latest version 8.0 of some software, and before I know it an hour has passed and my work is not getting done.
I have begun to do things very differently. And I find I am getting the most important things done – i.e. the things that make me money and grow my business. The other things, all the hundreds of seemingly interesting and sometimes important distractions, can fit into allocated but limited space, like an hour before going home.
There is tremendous power in a single focus.
When you focus fully on something you can draw on all your inner resources and get in touch with what you truly think. Creativity and originality tends to flow best out of a focused and tranquil mind. Recent brain research shows you can achieve and complete higher quality work and usually in less time.
Some people are in danger of losing the ability to focus in our busy multi-tasking world. When you are always multi-tasking, listening to music, half aware of a conversation with someone, half focused on the TV while going over a report for work tomorrow, my guess is that you are doing none of those things well. You are physically present but not fully present to anyone, including yourself. I wonder how many relationship conflicts arise due to multi-tasking?
Could this generation be addicted to multi-tasking?
I am finding that as I am weening myself from my addiction to multi-tasking (there I admitted it!) and learning to focus on the main thing and do it, I am not only more productive but also can stay much more relaxed.
So, I am asking the question, is multi-tasking overrated? I believe it is. Am I a lone voice? Or is it possible that what I am saying strikes a chord with you?
I’d love to know what you think. Please take a moment and make a comment in the space below.
So multi-tasking may have its downsides, but it isn’t always bad. There are certain circumstances under which we are better at multi-tasking – when we feel relaxed and when we’ve been doing a mentally creative exercise which encourages us to think broadly. ( In this study it involved thinking of as many uses as possible for a paper clip, a newspaper, some wool and some upholstery foam.) After this kind of activity people became better at multi-tasking. When the experimenters deliberately made them feel stressed, they were worse at it.
I agree with you. Some people are much better at multi-tasking than others. However, if you are trying to do focused work where you need to think deeply, or work that requires attention to detail and accuracy, it is absurd to try to do more than one thing at a time.