We All Multi-Task – But at What Cost?
In today’s world, it is a badge of honor to say that you’re a capable multi-tasker. And while it is possible to have many things going on at once, science is proving that it isn’t a good idea to actually do more than one thing at a time. (Anyone still think texting and driving is a good idea?)
Aside from the real dangers it poses while operating machinery, multi-tasking in the safety of your work space is also detrimental. In fact, in an interview that appeared on NPR, Dr. Clifford Nass, author of “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop,” and professor of communications at Stanford University had some interesting things to share about The Myth of Multi-Tasking:
NASS: People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand. And even – they’re even terrible at multitasking. When we ask them to multitask, they’re actually worse at it. So they’re pretty much mental wrecks.
FLATOW: Wow. But they don’t think they are.
NASS: No. You’re…
FLATOW: And that’s the danger, right?
NASS: That’s right. No, they actually think they’re more productive.
Nass summarized the dangers of working in a state of constant distraction, and cautioned that it might be difficult to get back the ability to truly focus.
We train our brains to a new way of thinking. And then when we try to revert our brains back, our brains are plastic but they’re not elastic. They don’t just snap back into shape.
The Case for Single-Tasking
There are many articles that dispel the idea that you’re actually, literally, doing two things at once while “multi-tasking”. And let’s face it, most of us live in a world where we have no choice but to juggle many things at a time.
But try being mindful about single-tasking. Challenge yourself to actually focus on *only* the task at hand. Make being a single-tasker a badge of honor.
When you force yourself to shut off distractions and truly focus on the task at hand, you’re capable of a better quality work-product, more clarity, and you guessed it — more productivity.
Do you find multi-tasking difficult? Is it hard for you to focus on only one thing?