“Multitasking is a polite way of telling someone “I haven’t heard a word you’ve said.” – Dave Crenshaw

I have highlighted research about the problems with multitasking, which shows that the brain actually cannot effectively do two things at once. Dave Crenshaw, founder of Invaluable Inc., has written a book summarizing this research, called The Myth of Multitasking: How Doing it All Gets Nothing Done.  It shows that multitasking –which is really switchtasking – is a less effective and efficient way to work.

Switching costs results when people must go back and review what they’ve done before they resume work on a task. The more complicated the task, the greater the cost. Saying you are good at multitasking is like saying you’re good at using a less effective method of getting things done. No matter how good you are at switchtasking, you will get less done than the person who focuses on one attention-requiring activity at a time.”

Test Yourself

Dave uses the following demonstration to show why multitasking doesn’t work. Referencing the form in this link, Dave’s takes you through an exercise to prove the downsides of Multitasking:

The results may prove to you the following problems with multitasking:

  • Things take longer
  • Number of mistakes increase
  • Stress levels increase.

Unlearning Multitasking: You Can (Un)Do It!

So can multitasking be unlearned?

Peter Bregman’s book on how to overcome the problem of switchtasking, titled “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Your Distraction” has garnered such credits as the Gold medal from the Axiom Business Book awards, best business book of the year by NPR, and was selected by Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Post as a top 10 business book of the year.

Peter conducted a personal experiment to give up multitasking. His objective was to sustain focus on one thing at a time for that period of time. His personal findings:

  1. Being free of multitasking was delightful.
  2. I made progress on challenging projects.
  3. My stress level dropped dramatically.
  4. I lost patience for things that wasted my time.
  5. I had patience for useful and enjoyable tasks.
  6. There was no downside.

He says there was no downside, as no project was left unfinished, and no one expressed frustration when he didn’t answer calls or return emails immediately upon receiving them. Peter holds that the best way to fight distracting interruptions is to create productive ones, a practice that can be easily implemented in 18 minutes a day. In the short videos below, Peter briefly reviews the methodologies provided in his book:

Introduction:

Part 1: “The Run Walk Method”

Part 2: Tip on To Do Lists

Part 3: How To Leverage Your Weaknesses

Part 4: How To Get the Initiative to Get Things Done

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