Advertising
Advertising

What Humans Can Learn from CPUs About Multitasking

What Humans Can Learn from CPUs About Multitasking

Multitasking

Nowadays, our minds and our computers are very busy, because we have more and more tasks to accomplish in the same amount of time. We are trying multitasking, but it seems human brains are simply not designed to operate that way! When you try to do two things at the same time, you know that is will not work long term, you can only focus on one thing at a time. That said, it is possible to deal with your tasks in a manner that appears simultaneous from the perspective of hours and days. This is effective multitasking, human edition.

We are now in multicore CPU era, but we can still remember the time that we had a single core CPU and yet had a multitasking environment. My old computer was able to play music, do some background calculations, and download a file from the Internet while I was writing a text at the same time. Multitasking operating system on a CPU that can do only one thing at a time: isn’t that exactly what we need? When we look how that has been achieved, there is a great lesson to be learned for humans.

Today, nearly all operating systems support preemptive multitasking, but there were early version of Microsoft Windows that were using cooperative multitasking, which didn’t work well. According to Wikipedia, “Preemptive multitasking involves the use of an interrupt mechanism which suspends the currently executing process and invokes a scheduler to determine which process should execute next.” Let us see what humans can learn about multitasking from that concept.

Advertising

Lesson 1: Task switch is costly

What happens when task switch is initiated? We need to save the context with the intention of resuming the task at a later time. Save the context, resume another task, voila! However, it is not that easy for CPUs and it is even harder for humans. Saving context takes time and also CPUs have data cache, which stores recently used data for very quick access and switching the task will need to flush some of the cache entries. It will require some additional time to put that data back into cache. You know it probably all too well—a message pops up on your desktop when you are fully focused and it sidetracks your thought process; some cache entries are gone and it will take you minutes to regain your performance level. Lesson number 1 for humans is task switches are very, very costly!

If you react to pop-ups, enter your social media “just for one minute”, and look into your e-mail inbox every minute or two, you know why your performance suffers: your brain has to constantly save and restore the context and your “cache” is never efficient.

Lesson 2: Time boxes

Preemptive operating systems use a concept of a time slice, which is the period for which a process is allowed to run. An interruption, usually coming from a clock, will initiate a task switch. If you have a PC or Mac, this is how your CPU operates most of the time! This concept works great for CPUs, but it works even better for humans: the “Pomodoro technique” is a great example of that. I set my countdown timer and focus on just one thing. It is so powerful that it revolutionized the working style of many people.

Advertising

I have all my data in very efficient cache, so my operation is very fast: I am avoiding task switches, but at the same I am sure that I will be able to accomplish all of my tasks, because my clock will tell me when to stop and/or switch. Every task switch is costly, and timeboxes are a great way to multitask effectively.

Lesson 3: Interval is carefully chosen

When using timeboxes, the main question is what intervals should I use? If it’s too short, we’ll use too much time on task switches, instead of the actual operation. When it’s too long, other tasks suffer. Can you imagine an operating system when task switch occurs every few seconds? That would be very unresponsive and annoying. The actual interval for our operating systems is usually several milliseconds.

With humans, the problem is more complex, because we are also getting tired. We cannot switch every minute, but three hours is also unrealistic; we would be very unresponsive, but also drained from energy at the same time. A good number to start with is “Pomodoro number”25 minutes—but your personal style, energy level, work demands will influence that. Experiment and see what interval works best for you. For CPUs and operating systems, that single number is one of the most important to determine whether it is going to be responsive and have a feeling of smooth multitasking.

Advertising

Lesson 4: Interrupt handling

We are constantly dealing with interruptions in our work and CPUs handle millions of interruptions as well. What makes us very different from operating systems is that their interruption handlers are usually very, very quick and they do not require a context switch. You received a phone call, you read an email, you read a short message, and you changed a tab in your browser “just to see one thing”. It was not an interruption; it was a context switch.

If we dealt with interruptions in a similar manner that CPUs, we would simply write down some information, acknowledge that we’ve received it and resume an operation. It’s just few seconds. If it was an interruption, you did not have to switch the context. Do we really need that many interruption sources?

Lesson 5: Priorities

In operating systems, tasks have their prioritieseven interruptions have them. When handling an interruption of priority X, usually all the others with priority equal to or lower than X are blocked. It is a great lesson for us, because in many cases everything is equally important (and urgent!) and this is why we can rarely accomplish anything.

Advertising

Summary

Humans are not CPUs. Our life is not about completing tasks effectively. We are spiritual beings; we have passion, emotions, relationships, and abstract thoughts. There is a great lesson that we can take from current CPUs and operating systems, however, and that is to multitask efficiently.

Try timeboxes to eliminate task switches, observe which intervals give you satisfaction and perception of effective multitasking, handle interrupts as interrupts should be handled and write down your priorities. When you think about multitasking, CPUs and operating systems are a great source of inspiration!

More by this author

Piotr Nabielec

Author, CEO, Consultant

How to Really Achieve Goals 8 Outlook Hints Everyone Should Know 7 Things Smart Learners Do Differently 10 Ways To Have Quality Sleep That You Probably Don’t Know 9 Things You Can Do To Completely Unleash Your Potentials

Trending in Productivity

110 Best Time Management Books Recommended By Entrepreneurs 2What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) 36 Simple Steps to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals 4Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!) 5How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

10 Best Time Management Books Recommended By Entrepreneurs

10 Best Time Management Books Recommended By Entrepreneurs

We all know that the most precious resource in life is time. Once lost, you can never rewind the clock. For entrepreneurs, this pressure is enhanced.

Having an idea and a vision for a business requires courage. Launching that business in a world where many are satisfied with their comfort zones requires guts. Once you’ve launched the business, the goal is to be consistent.

Success is directly related to consistency. Consistency is the direct result of how you manage your time.

Here are 10 awesome time management books that have been recommended by successful entrepreneurs.

1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

This is an awesome resource that jolts everything you’ve ever learned about the time needed to build a successful career. Personally, I was shell-shocked when I first heard of a “4-hour workweek.” At the time, I could hardly get through the typical 9-5.

I read the book and my life has never been the same. I’ve managed to escape the rate race, work less hours, and live life to the fullest.

Joel Bomgar, founder and CEO of Bomgar, had the following to say about the book:

“The productivity principles and philosophy of productivity and effectiveness encompassed in [The 4-Hour Work Week] are powerful. I read it a few years back and it was one of the most life-transforming books I’ve ever read.”

    Get the book here!

    2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

    This is another fantastic resource that shifts your paradigm and mindset. This book taught me that income-generating assets usually provide healthier bottom-line results than even the best of traditional jobs. This might not always mean millions of dollars in your bank account, but it may give you that priceless time freedom.

    Dane Maxwell, founder of an incredible resource called The Foundation – a community of over 60,000 entrepreneurs – had this to say:

    “It all started when I read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I’m not a typically really super intelligent guy so I really appreciated the simplistic way that Rich Dad, Poor Dad explained financial wealth. He talked about passive income and not exchanging time for money.”

      Get the book here!

      3. No B.S. Time Management For Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy

      Being an entrepreneur is tough. You’ve got to set some serious targets upfront. You might not achieve them all, but you have to gun for them.

      This book gives you three incredibly powerful tips and targets:

      • Self-discipline is the magic power that makes you unstoppable
      • Avoid the time vampires that want to suck you dry
      • As an entrepreneur, your time is worth $340 per hour

      It is impossible to start as $340-per-hour entrepreneur. But, it should certainly be your target as you grow.

      Paul Gallipeau, Digital Marketing entrepreneur, has this as one of his highly recommended reads.

        Get the book here!

        4. In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore

        We live in an unnecessarily fast-paced world. In Praise of Slowness advocates for the reversal of a fast-forward mentality and lifestyle. It entrenches a culture revolution against the notion that faster is always better.

        For any entrepreneur, this is a must-read.

        There are too many opportunities out there. There are opportunities within opportunities. In the midst of all these opportunities, you need to slow down and have a clearly defined vision that will help you avoid growing into a chaotic entrepreneur.

        This is a resource highly recommended by Joe Griffin, co-founder of iAcquire.

        Advertising

          Get the book here!

          5. Priorities: Resources for Changing Lives by James C. Petty

          This book addresses time management from a spiritual perspective.

          I’m a huge advocate for the idea that less is more. I truly believe you can get more done by doing less.

          The success of this theory all lies in your ability to prioritize. Not everything that screams for your attention is important. You need to proactively ignore things that are not your most urgent priorities.

          With this resource, James C. Petty helps bring focus into frazzled lives. Using the “Assessing My Priorities” worksheet, he walks you through the process of organizing time under the categories of God, the people of God, and God’s work in the world.

          With sound biblical advice and practical applications, this booklet demonstrates ways in which you can reduce unnecessary stress, identify true priorities, and begin to get your overbooked schedule under control.

            Get the book here!

            6. On The Shortness Of Life by Seneca

            Recommended by Tim Ferriss, the incredible entrepreneur and author of The 4-Hour Work Week, this resource highlights that we have more than enough time to live our lives to the fullest.

            Unfortunately, we waste much of it.

            The book teaches how you can live a more fulfilled life by tweaking your perspective on time management.

              Get the book here!

              Advertising

              7. Organize Yourself by Kate Kelly

              Shifting your paradigm and mindset is important. That’s the reason why most of these books are geared at changing the way you think about the relationship between time and entrepreneurship.

              This book is about shifting your thinking about execution. Before execution, you need a plan. You need to be organized.

              This book will help you get organized by providing you with essential rules for better time, money, space and paper management.

              It reveals a professional organizer’s proven techniques for streamlining daily life.

              It provides fast, effective methods for dealing with common clutter, along with helping you to overcome procrastination and other organizational ailments.

                Get the book here!

                8. Time Efficiency Makeover by Dorothy K. Breininger

                We all are prone to procrastination at some point or other in our entrepreneurial journey. When things are not going quite according to how you planned, it is all too easy to get distracted.

                This book will help you decide whether procrastination is a real problem or if you are experiencing other life challenges.

                For true procrastinators, this book is filled with step-by-step guidelines on how to stop putting off those home and work projects, unpaid bills and neglected relationships. You will understand what is holding you back and how to keep focused and motivated on present and future events.

                A must-read for anyone who wants to improve the efficiency and satisfaction of their lives.

                Phil McGraw, an American television personality, author, psychologist, and the host of the television show Dr. Phil, highly recommends this resource and has the following to say:

                “These guys really know how to get things set up to maximize your time. They absolutely can create time that seems to come from nowhere.”

                  Get the book here!

                  9. How Did I Get So Busy? by Burton Valorie

                  I was once a busy bee and quickly realized that being busy was not necessarily the most effective way to reach my destiny. As the editor at Run For Wealth, a Nike Run Club Coach, and an online marketer, I have to constantly have to find the true balance between business versus productivity.

                  I highly recommend this book because it’s a simple and effective way to rediscover your true priorities, shift out of overdrive, and reclaim your life and schedule.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Aligned Thinking: Make Every Moment Count by Jim Steffen

                    Ultimately, we all want to live a fulfilled life. Having a great paradigm shift and being organized means nothing if you can’t make every moment count.

                    This book, written in the style of a simple fable, helps you to develop practical ways to focus on what’s important now and make the moment count.

                      Get the book here!

                      Conclusion

                      As an entrepreneur, you’ll come across many challenges. But, the biggest challenge will often be the issue of using your time effectively – especially early on in your entrepreneurial journey. This is the time when you’ll feel obliged to make everyone happy.

                      Time is a precious resource. For those who truly understand its value, it often seems like they are living in a cocoon.

                      You are not living in a cocoon. As an entrepreneur, you are in the minority, but it’s fine. I hope this list of resources will help you find comfort in the fact that being in the minority probably means you are well on your way to a fantastic and successful entrepreneurial journey.

                      Advertising

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                      Read Next