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A Word on Multi-tasking

People love to kill two birds with one stone. And many of us have even been conditioned to believe it’s a good thing—multitasking, that is. But should double-booking our brains really give us a sense of accomplishment? All signs point to no. It turns out taking on more than one activity at once has been shown to make us dumber—Yikes!

A lot of folks pride themselves on being “multitaskers” but really only about 2% actually have a handle on the whole multitasking thing, while the rest of us just suffer brain-melt from over-stimulation. What’s more, it’s been scientifically proven this method of production is such a drag on our, well, productivity, that we just end up doing more things lousier.

If that’s not enough for you to add single-tasking to your New Year’s resolutions, how about this: Multitasking doesn’t even exist anyway (sort of). We never actually do more than one assignment simultaneously. What really occurs is a constant back-and-forth switching of tasks that just burns energy and robs us of our focus and momentum.

On the other hand, some tasks do complement each other nicely. Just to be sure, here is what we are not talking about: throwing on a podcast and cleaning the flat, spinning some Mozart while studying, singing in the car while driving, etc. All of these things are very good & possible.

What we mean to address here is swinging back and forth between stuff that really requires our undivided attention: writing an email while talking on the phone and looking over a finance report. You’d have to be Gandolf to do any of those things justice while doing them all at the same time!

To really commit to my cranky old man attitude, here’s an old fashioned idea: Keep it simple and focus on one thing at a time. Imagine how eloquent your email would be if you took 5 minutes and just concentrated on it? Or how attentive you would be to the person at the other end of the phone call? Or how that report would be thoroughly read and edited and officially marked off your to-do list without going back to see if you missed anything? Sounds refreshing to me!

The point here might be an obvious one. And that’s quality over quantity.

It’s easy to be distracted with all the options we have today but let’s have the strength to remain focused and do great work. Remember, the people we look up to did not become great by spreading themselves thin for 10,000 hours. They were dedicated mono-taskers, honing in—even stalking—one specific task at a time and doing it really well.

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