Is Multitasking a Waste of Time?

As we have advanced in human society, productivity has been one of our most spectacular areas. We have found ways to do things faster and faster over the years. These increases in productivity have led to boosts in countries economies. It also has led to better use of technology in many fields, medicine included.

The hottest trend at the moment has been this idea of multitasking; getting many things done at once. At first glance it seems ingenious. If I can get two things done over the same amount of time, why not? The problem is that our brains are wired for most effectiveness in one task.

We are never truly “multitasking.” We, at best, are switching back and forth between tasks quickly. The problem is that switching tasks takes brainpower as well. We are truly unable to switch tasks without losing efficiency. We first need to decide on a stopping point for the first task. We then need to ignore remaining thoughts about that task. Finally, we need to refocus our attention on the new task. This switching back and forth can be tiresome for the brain.

But our current culture has taught us that this switching is a good thing. That we can talk to a person as well as tweet or check our email. That we can drive and text or talk on the phone. That we can read a book and watch TV at the same time. The list of attempted multitasking is without end. What we really are doing is wasting time.

Multitasking extends each task. The truth is, it is more time efficient to do one task, then after completion, switch all of your focus to the next task. Now, I’m not talking about putting your clothes in the laundry and waiting for them to get done before you move on to the next thing. I’m talking about tasks that require mental attention.

I have been able to accomplish many things in my life, but in retrospect I’ve done one thing at a time. I am a firm believer that we all have many talents and that we all can add value to the world in many ways. What I am suggesting here is to master one skill before you move to the next, instead of trying to become an expert in many things at once.

The next time you find yourself attempting to multitask, ask yourself to stop wasting time and get one thing done. The best way I practice this is to have 1 goal for each day. This 1 goal is THE thing that has to get done for that day. All of my attention goes into that goal and that goal only. Once I have completed that goal I allow myself to think about the other things on my list.

I’ve read a few great books about this topic. I would recommend 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Essentialism.

Here’s to getting things done. One task at a time!

What are some of the things you do to stay productive?