Unlearning Multitasking

As someone who has spent the last few years working in the communications industry, multitasking has not just been an essential part of my job, but something seen as a badge of honor by my peers. I remember when I was first looking for a job in the field and I strategically placed multitasking at the top of my skills list, knowing it would be an important job requirement. The ability to rapidly blast through e-mails while IMing colleagues, reading the news and checking Twitter has become the de-facto MO for the typical marketing and PR pro.

I used to be proud of my multitasking abilities. Until I realized that I really suck at multitasking.

And that almost everyone else does too, except for a few rare exceptions (and even the claim that 2.5% of the population can multitask successfully seems dubious). I’ve decided that if I really want to excel at life, I need to unlearn multitasking and instead, focus my undivided attention on projects that are important to me.

John Medina, author of the must-read book “Brain Rules,” says that “studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors.” So not only is multitasking completely counter to the way your brain functions best, but it also wastes time and makes you less efficient.

Terry recently pointed out to me this week that if you are multitasking on a project, it’s probably not that important a project anyway. It reminds me that while I’m surfing the ‘net on my laptop and watching TV and reading a magazine – all at the same time – I’m probably not prioritizing properly. I’m already working to eliminate distractions in my life, and I’m also planning to read Leo Babauta’s Focus Manifesto sometime this year. I’m a huge fan of Leo’s work and I’ve already improved numerous areas of my life through his advice.

So where do you stand? Are you a proud multitasker? Or an advocate for single-minded focus?

4 Comments on Unlearning Multitasking

    • Marie
      April 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm (14 years ago)

      Thanks, Jack! Glad you enjoyed it. I’d love to read your post but I think the link is broken, do you mind resending it to me?

  1. A L
    August 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm (14 years ago)

    I'm currently reading "Hamlet's Blackberry". An insightful book that speaks about multitasking and how it creates a more shallow life.

    • the_simplist
      August 26, 2010 at 10:06 am (14 years ago)

      That looks like a really interesting book, I’ll have to check it out! Thank you for the recommendation.


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