Why You Should Avoid Multitasking

08.01.2018 |

Episode #4 of the course The fundamentals of mastering your focus by Som Bathla


Welcome to Day 4! Today, you’ll learn why you should do one thing at a time.

At the outset, this advice may sound contradictory in this hyper-paced, modern, high-tech world, where everyone expects you to handle multiple tasks at one time.

You’re consistently told that you must attend an important client or customer meeting and also answer your emails as quickly as possible. You’re expected to finish your presentation for that important meeting, as well as make those not-so-significant-but-still-urgent phone calls or emails.

In a nutshell, the world is after you to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Also, some would argue that different things are equally important and need to be done at the same time. So, the question arises whether it will adversely affect your career if you focus only on certain things and ignore other activities.

And the answer is: No, it won’t. In fact, multitasking is what will badly affect your career. Let’s try to understand this based on some studies.

According to the late Stanford neuroscientist, Clifford Nass, multitasking should be called “multi-switching,” because the human brain does not have the capacity to focus on several tasks at once. If you are multitasking, you are simply switching back and forth between tasks very quickly, which almost always results in a loss of productivity.

It is a fact that a person who multitasks cannot filter irrelevancy. The only objective they have is handling as many tasks as possible at a given time. But while doing so, they are unable to filter if the current task must be done immediately, if it can wait for some time, or if it is required to be done at all.

You can compare your mind with the Random Access Memory (RAM) of a computer system. If you open multiple applications simultaneously, it will accommodate running a few of those applications. But if you open too many, it will slow down. Our minds have a limited capacity to focus. If you try to pay attention to two things at once, you won’t be able to concentrate fully on either. At most, you can only focus on things where one activity has already become part of your subconscious mind and therefore doesn’t require much effort.

Let’s look at an example.

If you’re driving a car on the highway and are simultaneously talking on the phone with your client or boss, both activities require attention. Your mind has to use judgment in both to deliver results. You have to be safe while on the road, and you also have to meet the expectation of your boss or client. The mind is not designed to do both things effectively, and there’s a chance of you faltering in either activity. Either you compromise the quality of your discussion, or you may cause an accident.

Let’s look at another example. You’re walking in your office corridor or jogging in the morning in your residential complex area. While doing so, learning a new skill or academic course or making a high-stake conversation is quite possible because walking or jogging in your known area is already a part of your subconscious mind and thus happens on an autopilot basis.

You might still argue that you have seen highly successful people doing a large number of tasks at the same time. It may look that way, but in reality, they have already done the hard work, and the data-processing speed of their brain has significantly enhanced. As such, they can quickly process a large amount of data to arrive at a decision. They then quickly decide one thing after another, which might seem like multitasking to you, but in effect, it is sharply focusing on one thing with full attention, completing that activity quickly, and then switching to another activity.

Hence, there is no such thing as multitasking. You need to concentrate on one task with laser-sharp attention. That way, you will build your focus muscle very quickly.

Tomorrow, we will talk about the importance of solitude time.

Take care.



Recommended book

Getting Things Done by David Allen


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