Trying Not to Multi-Task

There’s a great article in New York Times, titled “Multitasking Can Make You Lose … Um … Focus,” about how multitasking is not actually as effective as we think and is actually quite stressful on the brain.  Times journalist ALINA TUGEND writes:

Screen shot 2009-11-02 at 9.59.49 PMSince the 1990s, we’ve accepted multitasking without question. Virtually all of us spend part or most of our day either rapidly switching from one task to another or juggling two or more things at the same time.

While multitasking may seem to be saving time, psychologists, neuroscientists and others are finding that it can put us under a great deal of stress and actually make us less efficient.

Although doing many things at the same time — reading an article while listening to music, switching to check e-mail messages and talking on the phone — can be a way of making tasks more fun and energizing, “you have to keep in mind that you sacrifice focus when you do this,” said Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author of “CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!” (Ballantine, 2006). “Multitasking is shifting focus from one task to another in rapid succession. It gives the illusion that we’re simultaneously tasking, but we’re really not. It’s like playing tennis with three balls.”

I still haven’t figured out a magic way to keep myself from trying to multi-task, but I do try to keep reminding myself that just like managing energy is more effective than managing time, (see my book and The Power of Full Engagement), doing one thing at a time is more effective than doing five. Especially when that one thing is reading to my daughter or talking with my husband.

Read the Article →

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