Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.
Singletasking: It can be real, can it?
Perhaps singletasking seems a tad unrealistic. Such a concept may appear charming, yet you have more on your plate than I could possibly imagine!
Here’s an amuse-bouche: switching focus lowers productivity while increasing the number of hours required to complete tasks. Researchers at Harvard University found that the most productive employees change focus relatively few times, whereas frenetic workers switch focus up to five hundred times a day.
In short, habitually switching between tasks correlates with poor creativity.
Additionally, multitaskers are more susceptible than single-taskers to interference, less effective at surppressing activation of irrelevant tasks, and slower to focus. What researchers have dubbed ‘heavy media multitasking’ correlates with high susceptibility to distraction and a poor ability to filter stimuli.
Just do it!
Joining the ranks of the highly productive and efficient does not require a societal shift or a global reconfiguration. You can make a change all on your own.
What makes multitasking so enticing?
We know the dangers of texting and driving, yet many of us still do it. How can we circumvet distraction? Why is it so difficult to immerse ourselves in a single task at a time? Because lurking around every turn is what I call the multitask monster. Many are thwarted by this compelling creature.
One of the primary tricks is pulling our attention toward unrelated obligations as we work. He looms over our desks, lumbering around our workplace, two heads recklessly swinging in opposite directions, daring us to focus on one over the other. As we stare in despair at our stealth expanding in-box, the multitask monster soothingly whispers into our ears the Sole Solution: ‘Tackle two, three, four at once! It is your only hope.’
Worse, seemingly everyone else has taken on the multitask monster as a revered guide, responding to his every beck and call.
Resist. Stop the madness! Gather your resilience and kick that multitask monster out the door. Mutitask monsters are like ocean sirens luring sailors to disaster–though notably less well groomed.
Reclaim your life
As any neighborhood neuroscientist will attest, the brain can only focus on one thing at a time.
Allow me to expand. The brain is incapable of simultaneously processing separate streams of information from attention-demanding tasks. What we conversationally reference as multitasking is technically called task-switching–moving rapidly and ineffectively among tasks.
As Dr. Eyal Ophir, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, explains, ‘Humans don’t really multitask, we task-switch… stwich[ing] very quickly between tasks’. Although this feels like multitasking, the brain is incapable of focusing on two things at once. Plus, performance suffers as attention shifts back and forth.
Not only that, get a load of this from Dr. Earl Miller at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: ‘You cannot focus on one [task] while doing [an]other. That’s because of what’s called interference between the two tasks… People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself.’
[bluebox] Multitasking is not possible. What is common labeled as multitasking is really task-switching. We task-switch within tenths of a second; we don’t consciously notice delays.[/bluebox]