Want To Get Things Done? Stop Multitasking!
In the era of 24-hour Internet access and us blogging, working, tweeting all at the same time, multitasking is a hot topic. And not a straightforward on. There has been a lot of research on multitasking. From saying that it effects memory to messing with your cognitive control and even just being impossible on the level we generally associate it with, one thing seems to be clear: multitasking is a killer for productivity. So much so that while you boast about your ability to do a hundred things at once, you are actually bragging about getting things done more slowly.
Despite this, we continue to believe that we multitask. All the while making us less efficient, more stressed and never actually multitasking in the first place.
What “Multitasking” Implies
We seem to be believe that multitasking means being able to talk on the phone, type up a client email, listen to our iPods and maintain a conversation with a coworker at the same time. Which sounds impressive, as though you are slashing the time you would have spent on each one by doing it all at once, right?
But honestly try doing this. No matter how hard you try, you will find yourself struggling to focus and communicate. The reason is that you are using the part of your brain that sparks your ability to process language on four different things. You are writing an email, writing a text, speaking to a coworker and listening to the lyrics of a song.
The brain is not equipped to do this.
What Multitasking Our Minds Can Handle
When it comes to doing multiple things at once, the only way we can get away with it is through engaging separate parts of the brain. If we are only using a portion for a single task, and another portion for a different task, we can generally maintain our focus. We can even improve it.
A good example of this is writing a report while listening to instrumental music. While lyrics require the language portion of the brain to process it, classical or even modern soundscapes engage a different part. All without affecting your communication and language skills.
Multitasking And The Web
Possibly the worse culprit for getting us to multitask is the Internet. Thanks to the wide variety of entertainment websites out there, it is so easy to stop what you are doing and jump onto Facebook or a blog for a few minutes.
You might think that there is no harm in this. But through using tools like RescueTime you begin to see what a toll it begins to really take. Those little interruptions add up quick. Not to mention the time it takes to get back on track and find your train of thought.
What You Can Do
There are a few tips you can use to stay focused and stop multitasking.
- When listening to music, pick something without lyrics. This could be some traditional classical tunes, or even a movie’s instrumental soundtrack. You can also find many playlists for concentration on sites like 8Tracks and YouTube.
- If your current task doesn’t require focus, but instead you need motivation, you can also find many playlists on those sites or make one of your own. In that case, anything you really enjoy, lyrics or not, will do. As long as it gets you pumped and distracts the mind enough for you to get through the physical requirements more easily.
- Limit your Internet access. If you find yourself commonly going to a handful of websites you can’t seem to keep yourself off of, find a program that keeps you off. A popular one for Firefox users is LeechBlock, or StayFocused for Chrome. Both allow you to put in website you want to block, the amount of time you want them locked and even allow you to make it impossible to tinker with addons while the ban is in place.
It isn’t always easy to keep yourself from multitasking. But there is a plethora of evidence to show that it is a productivity killer. If you want to get stuff done, you have to try and cut the habit out of your life.
What are some ways that you fight off the multitasking urge? Let us know in the comments!