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Multitasking or Task Switching?

We often hear about how some claim to be great at multitasking. But is it multitasking or task switching? The thing is, multitasking is a myth. Whilst you think you’re being immensely productive, the chances are that whatever you’re doing, you’re performing at an inferior level compared with if you were to focus on that task with 100% of your attention. See what Sue Barret has to say on FastCompany.com in this insightful article. She quotes this from an essay written on  ‘Recovering from information overload‘ from the McKinsey Quarterly:

Multitasking or Task Switching?

Multitasking or task switching“When we switch between tasks, especially complex ones, we become startlingly less efficient: in a recent study, for example, participants who completed tasks in parallel took up to 30% longer and made twice as many errors as those who completed the same tasks in sequence. The delay comes from the fact that our brains can’t successfully tell us to perform two actions concurrently. When we switch tasks, our brains must choose to do so, turn off the cognitive rules for the old task, and turn on the rules for the new one. This takes time, which reduces productivity, particularly for heavy multitaskers – who, it seems, take even longer to switch between tasks than occasional multitaskers.

Read full article on Smart Company

Do are you going to call it multitasking or task switching? Not only is multitasking highly ineffective but it’s damaging to our brains as you may have seen on this site a while ago. In case you missed it, here the important quotation from a study at Stanford:

Chronic multitaskers were mentally slower with lower levels of concentration than those who focussed on one activity at a time. In the long term, chronic multitaskers were found to be more forgetful. They might search all over the house for spectacles that are perched firmly on their heads, not remember where they put their cell phones, even have trouble recalling names, faces and important dates and engagements.

For the full article on  “It’s a brain, not an octapus, click here.

So if you’re still one who multitasks, maybe think about not doing it! Eben Pagan talks about “Enlightened multitasking” where you actually schedule a time in your day where you multitask (as it’s not entirely practical to not do it at all). During this time you turn off all distractions, like your email client, phones, any kind of alert you get so you can focus 100% of your attention on one task at a time. After a while, you feel like you’ve been freed from distractions. Genius.