The Perils Of Multitasking

The Perils Of Multitasking

We all have limited time and unlimited things to do, and we try to juggle between work, personal projects, self-care and our social life. As we try to focus on what matters the most, we get in the web of complexities that come from managing a lot of important and competing tasks.

  • If we only focus on a single task, our responsiveness towards the demands of the world suffers.
  • If we are available to all and extremely responsive to what they need from us, our own progress suffers.
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The word ‘multitask’ is actually a computer term invented by IBM in 1965, showcasing how a computer chip can handle multiple tasks at the same time.

According to psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, multitasking is a mythical construct of the mind, where we mistakenly believe we can effectively perform more than one task at the same time.

One has to find a balance between optimizing one’s own output while enabling our peers and collaborators to move forward.

Mindful context switching is a scientific way to carry on with your daily tasks in the most efficient manner while not being unresponsive to other matters that need your attention and input.

  1. Defining your level of responsiveness based on the kind of work being done.
  2. Design a realistic ‘chunk’ of work that is meaningful and feels like progress. Breaking down your work into chunks makes it easier and is a modular approach to the tasks at hand.
  3. Ensure that you plan your work calendar based on the broken-down chunks of work.
  4. Ensure you communicate your response times to others.
  5. Review your calendar and improvise on your workweek.

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RELATED IDEAS

Mindfulness at work

Means being consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state. 

If you’re writing a report, mindfulness requires you to give that your full attention.

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IDEAS

Once you know what you’ll focus on, you’ll need a daily structure for staying focused on it. You may not be able to eliminate context switching from your day entirely, but these strategies will help you cut down on the number of times you have to shift your attention:

  • Task batching : Grouping and performing similar tasks together. For example, answering all of your emails at the same time so you’re not bouncing back and forth between your work and your inbox all day.
  • Time blocking : Dividing your day into blocks, such as “meetings,” “email,” and “deep work”. This method goes a step further than task batching and requires you to physically block off time on your calendar for a designated task or group of tasks and only those tasks.
  • Theme days : Designating different days of the week for different types of tasks. This is a more extreme version of task batching and time blocking that allows you to focus on certain types of work on certain days and postpone other types of work that don’t fit with the day’s theme.
  • Time boxing : Setting a limit on how much time you spend on a task. Similar to time blocking, time boxing requires you to designate boxes of time for specific tasks. The twist is that you must finish the designated task within the time box. The time constraint creates a sense of urgency that sharpens your focus.
  • Pomodoro method : Setting a timer while working on one task and taking regular breaks. This is a variation on time boxing that calls for 25-minutes of focused work on a single, clearly defined task followed by a 5-minute break with a longer 30-minute break after every four focused sessions.

  • Success leaves clues. That's why we can learn from the habits and methods of successful individuals. 
  • Failure does, too. So we can learn from past mistakes.   

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