Successful people tend to think it’s a must-have ability, employers want it on your resume and you are desperately looking for a way to improve it: multitasking. The idea of being able to do multiple tasks at the same time in order to boost productivity is considered a game-changer. However, here comes the sad but true punchline:
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Multitasking isn’t possible
Here is why: Our brains can’t handle it. Out of all body parts, the brain is probably the most studied one. Even so, we know the least about brains compared to other organs of the human anatomy. Out of that amount, there is one thing researchers know for sure: our brain handles tasks one at a time.
That’s it. Our lump of gray matter and neurons only processes one particular task at a time, at a conscious level. There is no splitting the amount of concentration over multiple actions and expect faster results with the same quality.
Why do I feel like I am actually multitasking?
Because your brain is fast enough and can lie to you. When you are undergoing multiple tasks at once, although you may feel like you are working simultaneously on all of them, your brain actually switches focus very fast between them.
What’s wrong with fast switching? It causes lower efficiency than handling each task individually. When working on something, our brain increases focus on that particular subject linearly. The more time we spend focusing on a task, the better our brain can process it. Switching quickly between tasks won’t allow your brain to focus.
Ugh, that’s bad. What do I do?
One word: FOCUS! And particularly, focus on one single task a time, as much as you can.
That’s right. If you are aiming for efficiency and better results, assign all your concentration on one single element. Whether it’s that overdue report, homework or that article on why multitasking isn’t possible, keep it simple. Start working on it and don’t move a muscle or power a sinapse for anything else.
Although it may seem unlikely at first, you will achieve better results in less time as long as you are doing one task and one task only at a given time. The deeper you get involved with what you are working on, the more efficient and faster you will become at it. When it comes to repetitive tasks done this way, you’ll become an expert.
But I get distracted quickly – can I be saved?
Indeed you can – and the best part is, you are going to do it yourself. Think about it like this: when addicts first start working on their rehab, the first thing they get cut off from is drugs.
Cut off your distraction sources
The biggest source of distraction in your home is most likely to be connected to a power supply or work on batteries. Removing any gadgets and eye-catching or ear-catching devices from your room or office would be a great start.
Here are some tips on removing distractions:
Shut down the TV, even disconnected from the power outlet
Turn off your computer
If you need your computer, at least disconnect it from the internet
Put your phone in airplane mode
Use a parental control app to block distracting websites (mail included)
Close the door to your room or office
Put on a pair of earphones to muffle outside noise – don’t play anything!
If you are finding it difficult to restrain from visiting distracting websites, here are some of the parental app or productivity plugins you can try:
- Write! (Windows) is a great distraction-free text editor useful to those who benefit from a clean writing environment. Just a white background and the cursor; nothing else to distract you from the text you are conceiving. For Mac users, there is Focused which works in the same way.
- StayFocusd is a Google Chrome plugin which allows you to block distracting websites permanently or for particular time intervals. The best part is, the plugin can be set in such way that once blocking starts, it’s impossible to undo until the time expires.
Rewards have always been able to implement a new behavior or get better results when studying or training. Set a focus goal and once you’ve managed to achieve it, reward yourself. It may be a candy, a snack, or a 10 minute break – just let your body be flooded with a sense of accomplishment which will push you to do it again and again.
Don’t rush it too hard, though
It’s not easy to remove the bad habit of multitasking, so don’t expect to do it in one go. As mentioned above, it is best to make a plan; set progressive goals and work towards accomplishing them. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you deserve it.
Once you’ve mastered the technique of single-task focussing, only progress lies ahead. At this point, you pretty much have the handle of things. It is up to you now to advance in your career and get that promotion, finish writing that book you’ve always wanted or finally setting the details of that project you’ve been so long delaying.