Multitasking vs. Crack

[message type=”custom”]Originally published on Natural Write, this post (with some very minor changes) is being republished here at the request of my very dear friend and desi sister, Jen.[/message]

I read or heard about a study recently which showed that multitasking does more damage to brain function than smoking cocaine. I cannot seem to find that study to cite, probably because I was talking on the phone while searching Google, but I’ve no doubt it’s true.

Multitasking became a household word during the 1980s when personal computers became commonplace. These new PCs ran on operating systems that were designed to run more than one program at a time, to multitask.

Suddenly everyone thought it’d be cool to be a multitasker too.

I can admit it. I was once a project manager who prided herself on her leet multitasking skills. Don’t judge, it was the 90s. You weren’t cool unless you were snorting cocaine whilst getting a manicure and making a conference call to your stock broker to tell him what’s what.

Cool? Not-so-much. The truth is, multitasking not only impairs your brain function at the time of said tasks, it can cause permanent and long term difficulty in concentration and learning.

It is reported that our children are such talented multitaskers they are able to consume 8 1/2 hours of media time in 6 1/2 hours of actual media usage. Perhaps the ADD epidemic’s answer lies not in amphetamines but in media/multitasking control.

There is no longer any doubt that humans are not wired for multitasking. When we attempt it, each task takes us longer to do and is performed with much less accuracy.

It’s one thing to send an email to the wrong recipient because you were also watching the evening news. It’s quite another thing to drive your SUV into a school bus because you were also sending a text message.

Today, as I adjust to life as a solopreneur, I have come to realize that there is no better approach to any task than sheer focus.

If not for focus and actively preventing myself from attempting anything remotely resembling multitasking, I would have no business of which to speak.

Are you an avid multitasker? What do you do to unwind and help you focus?

7 thoughts on “Multitasking vs. Crack”

  1. I’d be interested in seeing that study. So far every combination of
    relevant keywords brings up your blog first of all. You’re TOO good at
    this SEO stuff.

    I believe that multitasking is a terrible habit to teach your brain. The
    ability to reduce sensory input to only the vital information is a
    pretty important part of, well, experiencing the world in general… so
    training yourself to keep a number of different models of the world,
    each with a different set of condensed information and then having to
    determine which model you need for which task and switch between these
    models, is going to lead to some time-loss.

    I’m curious, though, what “damage to the brain” it’s causing, other than developing poor information-management strategies. Sure, you’re going to find it easier to default to the less focused mindset because your brain enjoyed the succss your leet multitasking skills brought, raising your status in the business world, but worse damage to the brain than cocaine?

    I suppose it depends on the frequency of use but for a good comparison, I would expect them to be comparing similar time spent using cocaine to time spent multitasking, in which case I would sooner live with the attention issues than as a complete burn-out.

    I agree completely that the best approach is to take each task separately and fully commit yourself to it.

  2. Interesting. Perhaps getting rid of my second screen would be a good start?

    I find that nachos — followed by chocolate in any form or quantity — are a great comedown from multi-tasking.

  3. First of all:
    So far every combination ofrelevant keywords brings up your blog first of all. You’re TOO good atthis SEO stuff.
    Best compliment EVER, amiright?

    Secondly, I had to look up this article again just to tell you that I started tracking the precise number of minutes it took me to complete tasks. The first thing that happened was that multitasking made it a pain in the ass to keep track– so I stopped (mostly) multi-tasking. Then the second amazing thing occurred. I started getting fast. Stuff got done in half the time, in some cases, in a third of the time. And not only did productivity shoot through the roof, so did creativity.

    Now, of course, it’s how to maintain this with out having to track every minute of my day for the rest of my life?

    1. Truly a great compliment from an amazing human. Scripta’s the best 🙂

      Believe it or not, I actually did spend a few months tracking every minute of my days. I used the Pomodoro Technique and kept careful records of all of my time. It’s not something I could go on doing forever but it was SO helpful in illuminating where my time-sucks were and how to really boost my productivity. Have fun!

  4. I have to agree with you Scripta. I’ve had many coke-filled weekends in years past and you couldn’t shove that stuff up my nose without a gun to my head today.

    I’ve searched hard and long for that study too and am wondering if it was an NPR news story I’d heard on the radio that maybe didn’t hold too much water? Even the public media’s been known to be less-than-accurate from time to time…this blog included.

    But I find no credible argument, like you state, that anything other than focus is the best recipe for finding any solution.

    Oh…and ILY!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *