Avoid multitasking to be super productive with 3 easy strategies.

Discussion in 'Articles & Tutorials' started by J.C. Avila, Jun 12, 2014.

  1. J.C. Avila

    J.C. Avila
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    Probably you have heard this before, "Do one thing at a time!, Don't multitask!". Have you? Today we are going to talk about this because it's very important to understand that our brain is not wired to multitask. It isn't true either when women say "Women can do many things at the same time." I'm not talking about throwing a load of laundry and talking to a friend in the phone at the same time, because that is perfectly feasible. What I am talking about is the more complex tasks that you have in hand, those that make you stagnate. Those, need to be done one at a time.

    "Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. [1]"

    Why can't I multitask!!? my Smartphone does!!
    I know you feel very confident about your ability to do two things at the same time, and probably you can do some, like walking and chewing gum. This is because doing these do not require a lot of brain usage. What I can't do is to focus well while trying to do two things at the same time. Why is that? Well that is because our brain is not designed to work this way.

    Our short term memory is capable to store 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time, for a 10 to 15 seconds span [2]. So, when you try to feed your brain with two different sources of information it is unable of processing any of the two sources and therefore, if the info doesn't go to your Short Term Memory it won't be able to go to your Long Term Memory, and by the time you try to recall something about these tasks, you won't be able, you won't remember anything. Why? because there is anything in your LTM, there is any info allocated in your brain, it never got there.

    What multitasking does to your brain is that it slows it's processing ability, so does multitasking to your Smartphone and your computer, and when you think you're saving time by doing two things at the same time, actually you are wasting more time than doing one task completely before starting with the next one.


    The benefits of doing one thing at a time.
    I have found three main benefits of doing one task each time:


    1. Focus. When I work this way I can focus pretty well in the task in hand, and because of this focus the creativity juices start to flow a lot easier than when I do otherwise.

    2. Calmness. Also I have noticed that when I focus on completing the task in hand without trying to do anything else prior to finish it, I feel very calmed and in control of the situation. Otherwise, if I try to do two or more things, that require brain power, at the same time I start to feel anxious and desperate and start to jump from my seat and walk to the water station, and to the bathroom, and back and forth, so I loose all concentration and fail to complete neither of the tasks I was working in.

    3. Sense of achievement. There is one more thing I have noticed when I one task. The great feeling of completing the task in hand, the sense of achievement, the pleasure of knowing I am one step ahead in my pursue of success. It is a natural motivator to keep going and complete the next task.


    How do I avoid multitasking?
    Perhaps doing one thing at a time it's not the easiest thing to achieve, but there are some strategies that you can use right away to make it easier for you.

    1. Prioritize: For me, it is much easier to do the most complex tasks early in the morning, and the less demanding ones after lunch, I also usually have another burst of stamina around 7:00 pm. So knowing this it's a lot easier for me to plan what and when I'am doing stuff and actually stick to doing it, all without feeling drenched, or anxious.

    2. Kill Distractions: Turn off your phone, close your Facebook, silence notifications, tell your coworkers that you need to focus on this task so they don't distract you.

    3. The Pomodoro Technique: Basically you work for 25 minutes and you take 5 minutes breaks. It works because its much easier to focus in just one thing when you're doing it for a short span of time.

    Action Steps
    I really hope that this post helps you to be more productive, and that you find a powerful tool in SingleTasking, For me it has been great to do my thing this way, and it always pays off.

    Ok, here comes the action. If you want to start working this way, I recommend that you take a piece of paper and write down five tasks you need to complete today or this week, arrange them in order of importance (not urgency), schedule when you are going to do each item on your list, perhaps you want to start doing one of them right away, you can use pomodoros or some other technique to focus on completing just one task. Remember to kill distraction so you can focus better.

    How did you feel about completing your tasks? Where did you struggle? What are your insights regarding single tasking? feel free to answer this questions below, or comment on the post.

    --
    J.C. Avila
    I experiment with productivity and self management in my life and within my business, you can read more of this at my blog.

    1. American Psychological Association
    2. The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information (Miller 1956)
     
  2. lets-build

    lets-build
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    A Really good article this. When I'm writing an article I do it in five minute bursts were I write without stopping whatever comes into my head for that topic.
    Then save and close it without reading it. Come back to it the next day and edit it abit. This technique works really well for me.
     
  3. ConanLake

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    Previously I love to do multitasking, but I just realized that doing multi tasking hasn't really helped me a lot. I ended up unfinish task. I overlooked with different task and thinking that I am doing well, but in the end after verifying what I've done, I just found out that most of them are not properly done. Multitasking is not effective on my end that is why I am just doing tasks one at a time.
     
  4. ellisthomas86

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    Well described. I am a geek who always look out for strategy to be productive all the moment. I think so this is one of the best article I have come across in getting more productive. Thanks for the valuable information.
     
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  5. hunteryz

    hunteryz
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    To be honest, I can not multitask, But some of human really can!
     
  6. lets-build

    lets-build
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    What's facebook got to do with it?
     
  7. J.C. Avila

    J.C. Avila
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    That's a good technique, working in short burst of times helps me when I find it hard to start doing the task.

    - - - - Posts Merged - - - -

    Facebook is a huge distractor for me. If I have it open in a browser I find myself going back an forth from what am doing to my Facebook.
     
  8. BobC

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    Great article - sometimes multitasking really can be counter-productive when you should be focusing on completing one project at a time. Software can also be a brilliant help in crossing tasks off the list. For example, I have developed The Form Tool, which automates repetitive smart documents (which can save an awful lot of time and avoid the need to multitask when it comes to filling out paperwork!).
     
  9. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter
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    Am sure our brain will thank us for not multi-tasking. But, there is a way to get things productively by involving into other stuffs, atleast my leveraging technology which helps us to finish off tasks effectively?
     

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