MONOTASK, NOT MULTITASK

Herworld (Singapore) - - HOW TO BE A BETTER HUMAN BEING -

It’s a myth that mul­ti­task­ing gets more done in a shorter time. What’s proven is that the qual­ity of your work suf­fers, and you lit­er­ally are not stop­ping to smell the roses. Here’s why mono­task­ing is the way to go. If I’m watch­ing Net­flix, I’m prob­a­bly hav­ing din­ner; and I al­ways seem to have at least 15 tabs open when brows­ing. It’s as if I’m afraid to do one thing at a time. The rea­son: Jug­gling mul­ti­ple things makes me feel like I’m sav­ing time.

But re­search – in­clud­ing a Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore study that found mul­ti­task­ing may im­pair the form­ing of long-term mem­o­ries – in­di­cates that mul­ti­task­ing low­ers ef­fi­ciency. Our brains are bet­ter at fo­cus­ing on one task at a time; mul­ti­task­ing slows us down and re­sults in mem­ory loss.

That’s at least true where the tasks re­quire the same kind of cog­ni­tive re­sources. Bad: e-mail­ing a client and talk­ing to a col­league at the same time. Very bad: What­sap­ping while driv­ing. Okay: lis­ten­ing to mu­sic while work­ing out. You see what I’m get­ting at. So in­stead, I’ve de­cided to sin­gle­task in the of­fice: I break down big tasks and keep my to-do list con­cise. It sort of works; I no­tice progress, and that mo­ti­vates me to keep go­ing.

How­ever, be­ing bom­barded by e-mail mes­sages all day is chal­leng­ing. I want to be on top of things by re­spond­ing to ev­ery­one im­me­di­ately, but it’s a pro­duc­tiv­ity killer. As Chris Bai­ley men­tions in his book Hyper­fo­cus: How to Be More Pro­duc­tive in a World of Dis­trac­tion, be­com­ing more pro­duc­tive isn’t about time man­age­ment; it’s about at­ten­tion man­age­ment.

I limit check­ing e-mails to the start and end of day. On my iPhone, I re­strict no­ti­fi­ca­tions us­ing the Down­time func­tion. Sure enough, it’s be­come eas­ier to be en­grossed in a task, and stick­ing to a clear struc­ture has made me work more pro­duc­tively.

Next, I strive to dwin­dle down to only two browser tabs at a time. If you leave a tab open and ne­glected for more than five min­utes, chances are it’s not that im­por­tant. I’ll ad­mit, change is a work in progress, and Rome wasn’t built yada yada. But I ac­tu­ally fin­ish read­ing (and re­mem­ber­ing) more ar­ti­cles now and, like my desk­top, my mind feels less clut­tered.

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