Multitasking refers to carrying out multiple tasks somewhat simultaneously. The term comes from computer engineering.
You could say that multitasking is just another word for being unfocused. You focus your attention on several things simultaneously, making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on one thing. After all, you are used to doing many things at the same time.
Multitasking is not an efficient way of completing tasks even though it seems you are achieving more in a particular time. This is because your brain cannot focus simultaneously and focus on one task while carrying out the other.
What will happen is that your brain has to restart then concentrate on the task you are doing, and when you change to perform the other task, your mind will have to restart again and focus on the new task.
When this restart and focus function has to be done repeatedly over a limited period, the brain will find it harder to process and refocus. Thus it has to drop some focus to manage, or it takes longer to do the same thing as effectively. The more complex a task, the longer the time you will take to complete these complex tasks. It also takes longer to complete tasks that are different when multitasking. If the tasks you are juggling are different, you will take a longer time or when doing tasks that you are unfamiliar with. This is because your brain needs a longer time to catch up and get focused on the task.
Would you rather do one thing well than three things half as good?
Then that’s a good reason to stop multi-tasking once and for all. Doing several things at the same time makes you anything but productive. Before you know it, you are left with loose ends and never really finish anything. Switching between different tasks also means that you have to start over and over again. And that takes up an excessive amount of time and energy.
Because of the fragmented focus, productivity will dip as you will take a long time to complete the two or more tasks that you are juggling. The other problem with multitasking concerning productivity is that you will not do your best work. This is because you are not absorbed in what you are doing long enough to get all the salient facts to get the general work done, but you are likely to miss the finer details. These may get lost since your attention is just on the bigger picture.
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This is best exemplified in the driving and using your cell phone scenario.
If you are driving and are on a phone call, you will keep steering the car and keep moving. Still, in a situation that needs your quick reflexes or for you to make a judgment call, such as swerving to avoid an oncoming car, your brain will take longer to make that call, which may result in an accident.
Inevitably we find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as “being busy.” Being busy, however, is not the same thing as being productive.
~ Ryder Carroll, The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future
Multi-tasking gives you the feeling that you are busy. This is because you are instructing your brain to focus on several things simultaneously, which is impossible. This makes you feel more stressed. The solution is simple: do one thing at a time with full concentration. The feeling of stress disappears, and you will be ready sooner. A great reason to stop multi-tasking.
If you want to get more work done efficiently in good time, the first piece of advice is to stop multitasking. It may not be as easy as it seems, especially in a world where there is so much happening all the time with the media, internet, and other stimuli bombarding your brain with a lot of information. You have to learn to filter out what is not important to you at one given time. If, for example, you get into the office and you need to return three phone calls, check your email and meet a colleague or a client, you will need to decide which of these things is the most important.
Assign your task priority and a time limit. So if you have to go through three hundred emails, do it in an hour. What is not done in an hour, you can designate to someone else or do it when you have ample time. If you find you are doing too much, or your responsibilities cannot be effectively done in the time limit you have assigned to them, you may have to either delegate or step back from duties.
Have a plan so that you can get everything done.
Even if you do not do everything in one go, ensure that everything that needs to be done – gets done. This means you may have to plan and write down everything that needs to get done so that you do not forget. Be flexible to change up your plan as need be, but only if it increases your time management or effectiveness. You need discipline so that even the unappealing work gets done in the time limit you have set for it. It is also easier to do similar tasks together so that you can save time.
If you stop multitasking, you will enter a flow faster. Do you know the feeling of being completely absorbed by something? You enjoy it extra, it gives you energy, and you forget the time. Then you are in a productive flow. You can only enter this fine (work) mode if you don’t let yourself be distracted by something all the time. Therefore, put your phone out of sight, avoid other sources of distraction, and do one thing at a time. This way, you will be in the flow in no time!