Advertising

Last Updated on February 9, 2021

Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills

Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills
Advertising

Cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists over the world have repeatedly proven that multitasking skills are based on a myth.

There are about 2.5% of people, according to a test done by David Strayer and Jason Watson from the University of Utah and the University of Denver at Colorado, that are, indeed, “supertaskers.”

The rest of us are in the majority; we are of the 97.5% of folks that need to accept that our performance will be better when we focus on one task at a time, or what other researchers have called “switch-tasking.”

Basically, multitasking skills aren’t actually as real as we thought, and when they are real, it’s rare that those skills exist in everyday people. These skills, when they do exist in someone, makes them a “supertasker.”

You may have been told that many women have the ability to multitask because we handle multiple tasks at the same time. We think to set the laundry before putting the casserole in the oven since both will take about the same amount of time to finish. Due to the magic of having two tasks completed in the same allotment of time, we have been dubbed with a talent that doesn’t actually exist.

But just because we thought to do those two things above, and write an article while backing up client work on redundant servers and updating two laptop computers for new staff to pick up tomorrow, is this a good idea for the human brain?

Are Multitasking Skills Even Special?

Science seems to keep saying no or only for a very special few. However, it’s easy to see why we’ve adopted such a mistaken name for getting lots of different things finished in the same amount of time, and why it has made some people feel special.

But look a little more closely at what is really happening with the work at home, freelancing, multitasking phenom of a person that thinks to get all these items checked off his/her list in roughly the same two hours through effective multitasking.

Let’s compare them to the person who decides that they will only focus on writing the article for two hours and leave those other items for later.

Advertising

It will become apparent to anyone that the quality of the article done by the multitasker will be different and has more propensity to be of lower quality than that of the fully focused freelancer.

This is because switching focus leaves more margin for errors in both quality and effort.

Think of our phenom, faking his/her focus on her article trying to give each sentence its due, while clicking on the backup tab as the client’s data transfers, listening for the oven and laundry machine chimes, and trying to think of a snazzier headline than that of the other guy that wrote an article like this one.

Whereas, our fully focused freelancer uses the time to get into a flow, thinking of all the articles s/he’s read and reviewed on the subject, thinking of his/her own life, and putting more aspects of what s/he’s been exposed to in each sentence she types.

S/he is putting every ounce of effort, physically and mentally, into the article in a way that may lessen the need for a thesaurus and flipping to search engines to flesh out ideas for supporting points, and s/he can draft it out in a much fuller way with a tone specific to their own writing voice – which is valuable in a world with our internet!

Why Everyone Wants Multitasking Skills

We all want to optimize our time and give our all to the work and the projects that we love. We all want to make sure that the people we love are taken care of and our environment is one that promotes good work.

We all want to make certain we are prioritizing the right things and spending our time the way we intended for the day. At the end of each day we want to know we got the big stuff accomplished.

The only reason the term “multitasker” became so sexy is the desire to optimize our time. If you weren’t one, you were trying to read books and go to seminars to learn how to become one.

Later, it was called out as a dirty word and we started to shout at people if they interrupted us for three seconds because we were giving our work a scary amount of savant-like attention, like a mad scientist disrupted and angry over a quick question about lunch.

Advertising

Science confused some people, as it sometimes does, telling us for a few years that multitasking like a Stepford wife is the thing everyone should be and then realizing that, no…maybe not.

In short, science has come to the conclusion that multitasking may not be the best way to get things done.

One study found that media multitasking (using two or more media sources at the same time) among college students led to lower GPAs, test performance, information recall, comprehension, and note-taking. The researchers went on to point out that “Outside of the classroom, media multitasking is also tied to poorer classroom performance along with students predicting less confidence and lower scores”[1].

In another study that focused on physicians, researchers found that “Interruptions, multitasking and poor sleep were associated with significantly increased rates of prescribing errors”[2].

The general conclusion seems to be that multitasking increases errors, reduces memory recall, and hurts overall performance on a given task. As it seems to be time to ditch efforts with multitasking skills, here are some things you can do instead.

What to Do Instead of Multitasking

People like you and me who want to:

  • Give the best of ourselves to our work and creative projects
  • Get important life and adulting things done each week
  • Have energy left over to not snap at those we love
  • Feel like life is moving forward and we are accomplishing our goals

We OPTIMIZE.

This means that there are days and weeks when we spend 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM getting five things completed.

However, this also means there are going to be more days and weeks where we are being a fully focused mad scientist, giving our all to the one thing in front of us for an undistracted two hours. We prioritize tasks, delegate tasks, and get things done.

Advertising

Optimization of time takes a skill that we ALL have the capacity to learn and get better at.

This is the skill we need more of and the one skill that can help us truly get the time back that we think we are losing when we forget to turn on the dishwasher before we sit down to finish that financial report.

Try this:

1. Don’t Fake It

What are the three most important things that need to be completed this week? Are these things able to be completed in the time you’ve allotted for them?

Break it down into hour chunks and see how many hours one whole item needs. Then, add ten percent more time to each.

That’s the true allotment of time each item will likely take to complete.

Now, without faking it, can you finish these important things this week or not?

Once you decide, check out this video to help you learn how to get into deep work and focus like a champion:

2. Multitask With the Mini-Tasks

Once you break down the big three things for the week, two of them may have mini-tasks built into the completion of them, and this is where you can utilize some multitasking skills.

Advertising

This means you can have the best of both worlds because you can spread your energy during those time allotments to a mini-task and something else less urgent, getting those things done during the same time block.

3. Focus With Force

For the final, big task, we broke it down into chunks, and we see it has seven parts to complete this week. Each part will require your heart, mind, and soul.

When you work it out this way, you will know very clearly which time blocks to protect. It’s an amazing feeling to accomplish work this way, especially when you protect the time around it. It gives you an energy boost just thinking about HOW you will protect it.

By getting into a flow of focus, your work will begin to reflect who you really are. When you optimize and don’t compromise, you protect the work you do, and it shows.

If you need more help sharpening your focus, check out this Lifehack Fast-Track Class: End Distraction And Find Your Focus

Start Optimizing Your Time

Tips abound, and the research is extensive on multitasking versus switch-tasking. Prioritization often seems to fall under the “time management” umbrella, and yet, the point of prioritizing is to optimize the few precious hours we get in a productive adult life.

Optimizing is really the skill we need most because it forces us to dig deep and choose what’s most important to us personally. That’s something you can stand by.

More on How to Avoid Multitasking Skills

Featured photo credit: Marvin Meyer via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Natasha Riley-Noah, EA

Small business advisor for all things related to taxes and compliance, mentoring entrepreneurs all along the US Gulf Coast.

Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills

Trending in Focus

1 Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 2 7 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Productivity Boost 3 Why Making Yourself a Priority Boosts Your Productivity 4 How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster 5 Take Control of Your Focus! How to Avoid Distractions

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 27, 2021

Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better

Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better
Advertising

What comes to mind when you think of learning how to focus better? Do you think of the attention or concentration it takes to complete a task? Do you consider the amount of willpower needed to finish writing a report without touching your phone? Do you think it requires sitting in complete silence and away from distractions so that you can study for an important exam or prepare for an interview?

I’m sure many of you can relate to the above statements and agree that the ability to focus is about staying on task for a given period of time. Breaking that concentration would mean that you’ve lost your focus, and you’re either doing something else or trying to gain back that focus to finish up the intended task.

With an ever-increasing amount of information—that is easily accessible online and offline—we’re faced with a lot more opportunities and avenues to create possibilities to experience things on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, that can make it a lot harder for us to make progress or get things done because we’re either easily distracted or overwhelmed by the constant influx of information.

That’s why many of us end up having problems concentrating or focusing in life—whether it be on a smaller scale like completing a task on time, or something much bigger like staying on track in your career and climbing the ladder of success. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we blame our failures due to a lack of focus.

Learning how to focus better doesn’t have to be too complex. Here is some information to help you get started.

Focus Is Not About Paying Attention

What if I tell you that you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time?

Focus isn’t just the attention span of giving 20 minutes to a task. It actually goes far beyond that.

Advertising

The real reason why we focus is because we need to do something that exceeds our existing capability. We need to devote large amounts of time and energy to move the needle in life, to make that progress and positive change.

And why do we want to do that? Because we want to spend time becoming a better version of ourselves!

At the end of the day, the reason why we stay focused on any task, project, or goal is because we want to succeed. With that success comes progress in our lives, which means we eventually become better than what we were a month ago, or even a year ago.

Let me give you an example:

Say you’ve been tasked to manage a project by your boss. You have targets to meet and favorable outcomes to achieve. Your focus and attention has to be on this project.

Once the project has been completed, your boss is happy with the results and your hard work. She rewards you with praise, a promotion, or maybe even a year-end bonus.

That’s your success right there, and you feel good about your achievements. Looking back at who you were before and after the completion of this project, wouldn’t you say you’ve become a better version of your previous self?

Focus Is a Flow

This is what focus is and how where learning how to focus better starts. It’s not a one-off, task-by-task mode that you jump into whenever needed. Rather, focus is a flow[1].

Advertising

Focus is the way in which you deliberately target your energy to push progress in something you care about. Because focus takes energy, time, and effort, whatever it is that you need to focus on should be something meaningful to you, something that’s worth shutting down phone calls, text messages, and social media for.

So, why is it that we sometimes find it so hard to focus?

Usually, it’s because we’re missing two major elements. Either we don’t know where we want to go—in that we don’t have a clear goal—or we do have a goal, but we don’t have a clear roadmap.

Trying to improve your focus without these two things is like driving to get somewhere in a foreign country with no road map. You end up using a lot of gas and driving for hours without knowing if you’re getting anywhere.

Let’s go back to the example of your boss assigning you a project to manage. The company is opening a new office, and your boss wants you to oversee the renovations and moving-in process of this new location.

Now, if you didn’t have a clear goal or end result of how the new office should look, you could be busy arranging for contractors, interior designers, or movers to come, but have no clue what to assign or brief them on.

The second scenario is that you know exactly how the new office should look and when it should be up and running. However, because you don’t have a clear roadmap to get to that end result, you end up working all over the place; one moment you’re arranging for the contractors to start renovations, the next moment you’ve got furniture coming in when the space isn’t ready. What do you focus on first?

The Focus Flow

Without a clear goal and road map, things can turn out frantic and frustrating, with many wrong turns. You also end up expending a lot more mental energy than needed. But, having a Focus Flow when learning how to focus better can help.

Advertising

Let me show you how theFocus Flow works.

  1. It starts from a clear objective.
  2. This becomes a clear roadmap.
  3. Then it manifests into a state oftargeted attentionand effort.
  4. This results in pushing your progress towards your ultimate destination.

Setting a Clear Objective

To start off, you need to set a clear focus objective. If you don’t have an objective, how can you decide on which things are worth focusing on? You can’t focus on everything at the same time, so you have to make a choice.

Like driving a car, you need a destination.

In this case, you don’t want to drive around aimlessly. You want to arrive at your destination before you run out of gas.

A good focus objective, therefore, needs to be concrete. This means that it should be something you can visualize, such as determining how the new office is going to look after you’ve completed the renovation and moving in. If you can visualize it, that means you have a clear enough picture to know what’s needed to achieve it.

Drawing a Focus Roadmap

The second step is to lay out a practical focus roadmap. Once you have your ideas, setting an objective is easy. The most difficult part is determining how you’re going to achieve your objective.

There are lots of things you can do to work towards your goal, but what comes first? What’s more valuable, and how long will it take?

That’s where having a roadmap helps you answer these questions. Like driving, you need to have at least a rough idea of which major roads to drive on, and the order in which you need to drive them.

Advertising

Yet, creating a roadmap can get tricky because you have absolute freedom on how you’re going to achieve your objective.

To create a good road map, you should include major milestones. These are targets you need to hit in order to achieve success. Your roadmap should also include feasible and realistic actions that you can achieve as you learn how to focus better.

Need a little help in drawing this Focus Roadmap? The Full Life Planner can help you. It’s a practical planner to help you stay focused and on track with your most important goals and tasks in an organized way. Get yours today!

Power Up Your Productivity

I hope you now have a better understanding of how focus truly works. By harnessing your focus using the Focus Flow, you’ll be able to work on a task more productively, not because you’re able to concentrate, but rather because you know exactly what your end goal is, and you have a game plan in place to make that happen.

Once there is clarity, I can assure you that you’ll be less likely to get distracted or lose focus on your tasks at hand.

You may think it’s going to take you extra time writing out an objective and setting out a roadmap. You may believe that you are better off getting right down to the actual work.

However, as I’ve mentioned, there’s no point in rushing your efforts that lead you to nowhere or cause you additional detours. You’ll end up expending more mental energy and time than needed.

Once you’ve made your roadmap and found your focus, follow it up with unbreakable determination with Lifehack’s Actionable Motivation On Demand Handbook.

Advertising

More on Overcoming Distractions

Featured photo credit: Paul Skorupskas via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Very Well Mind: The Psychology of Flow

Read Next