It’s Time to Tame the Multi-tasking Monster
Think that multi-tasking is a great, productive idea? Think again…
It feels pretty damn good to tick task’s off our to-do list, doesn’t it? That little hit of feel-good dopamine has us feeling like we could leap off tall buildings. Or at the very least like we’re winning at life.
So surely, working on more than one task at a time is going to make us more efficient and productive. Right?
That my friend is called multi-tasking which involves regularly switching between tasks or contexts. And it has a negative effect not only on your productivity. But also on your health and happiness.
The Myth of Multi-Tasking
There are generally two ways in which people try to multi-task. The first is when you literally try to do two things at once, like listening to a podcast episode while scheduling social posts. These two tasks are quite different – one is consuming content while the other is creating content.
But here’s the thing, your brain can actually only focus on one task at a time. So at any given moment you’re focus and attention is either on listening to the podcast or scheduling social posts. You can’t focus on both things at once.
You can switch back and forth quickly between tasks, but it takes time and energy for your brain to adjust.
The second is when you more intentionally switch between tasks every few minutes. Like if you’re writing a blog post and updating your website at the same time. You might switch to your website and start an update. Switch to your word doc and write for a few minutes. Switch back to your website to check on the progress or start another update. And switch back to your word doc to write another few sentences. And so on and so forth…
But like the first scenario, the same problem arises. It takes time and energy for your brain to adjust each time you switch. And more importantly you’ll never allow yourself to get into a flow state which is where we do some of our best creative work.
In the Zone
Have you ever been completely absorbed, working on something only to look up and realise that time has flown? I experienced it just now writing this blog post.
I was in my creative zone with the words and concepts just pouring out of my fingers onto the page. Then I stopped to check the time, switching out of writing mode. And now that I’ve switched back to writing mode, trying to pick up where I left off. The words aren’t coming as easily.
The Beauty of Flow
Flow state is a term popularized by positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura. It describes a feeling where, under the right conditions (in a focussed, distraction free environment) you become fully immersed in whatever you’re doing.
It’s a sort of effortless attention. Where your brain is at optimum efficiency and you’re just flying through your work. You’re at your creative peak and time no longer exists.
Familiar with it?
Generate Your Own
Here’re my quick tips for creating a flow-worthy work environment.
- Time block your calendar – set aside a block of time each day dedicated to tasks that will benefit from a flow state (like writing a blog post on a topic that you’re passionate about).
- Silence the distractions – switch off all your notifications, both phone and computer. Ensure your phone is on silent (turn off vibrate) and out it well out of your line of sight.
- Create space – remove the physical and digital clutter from your space. Tidy your desk and close down all the tabs and applications not required for the specific task.
- Get to work.
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