Multi-tasking is a fallacy - here's why

j0433179What happens when you have fifteen projects going on a one time?  Usually nothing much because you’re always flipping from one task to the next.  Multi-tasking  has been touted as a skill that’s needed to survive today.  Running around “doing stuff” is just that….doing stuff.  People confuse activity with results. It seems like we’re busy, busy and still may not get the results we want.  It all comes down to focus.

Does this scenario sound familiar?  First thing in the morning, you check your phone to make sure the world didn’t stop while you were sleeping.  Next, you check email and you have a boatload of them.  You arrive at work and try to go back to the first call you got that morning.  One of your co-workers interrupts you to get information for a project.  You then attend a meeting about another project and remember that you had to present an update status you completely forgot about.  You skip lunch so you can pick up your laundry and try to catch up on those calls and messages from the morning.  You then sit through a 2-hour conference call and think that you’ll catch up on the 150 emails that you got since you got to work that morning. You get a message from your manager who needs you to stop everything and work on a special project.  The emails and messages pile up and by now it’s 6PM.  You finally get home and feel like you didn’t really complete anything you started….

Recent studies show that our ability to focus, think deeply and strategically has been impaired because of the constant interruptions to our concentration.  What does that mean?  It means that we can’t and don’t take the time to fully think through problems and analyze situations.  It means we may not consider all the information and critically think through decisions.  It means the part of our brain that processes critical thinking is atrophying.

We can reverse this trend by taking “time outs” during the day to relearn how to focus.  The best method for this is meditating.  Simply sit someplace quiet, close your eyes and focus on your breathing for 7 minutes.   This article in Scientific American explains how this works

Focus means results because the brain can only focus on one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking reduces productivity and accuracy…try this exercise out tomorrow.  Commit to finishing anything you start.  See it through to the end.  Then go on to the next task.  You’ll get more done and regain that feeling of accomplishment.




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