You can’t deny the existence of multitasking in computers, but you can (and should) deny it when it comes to your brain, according to Devora Zack, speaker, coach, and author of three bestsellers.
Zack’s latest book, Singletasking: Get More Done – One Thing at a Time, portrays multitasking as a folk tale, a legend, a fable. The reason is simple. In the author’s own words…:
The brain cannot be in two places at once, so what people are referencing as multitasking is actually what neuroscientists call task switching and that means rapidly moving back and forth between different tasks.
We can all relate to this. You know you’re task-switching when your annoyance sensors go off. Getting a surprise assignment with a 1-hour deadline is sure to completely ruin your concentration. The same goes when someone interrupts you – research has showed that it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to get back into focus. But the bad news doesn’t stop here.
It can hurt your brain
According to Zack, task switching not only affects the quality of our work, it can end up damaging our brains: “When you overload your brain trying to get it to task switch, you shrink the grey matter in your brain,” she says, adding that multitasking has overcome DUI (driving under the influence) as the leading cause of fatal car accidents.
For those who are willing to put multitasking aside but don’t know how, Zack’s advice is simple: fully immerse yourself in the task you’re staring at. Not only you’ll get it done, but you’ll probably get it done well.
She offers four tips to achieve good single-tasking in a world that bombards us with assignments: 1) prevent distractions by building fences around yourself; 2) stack tasks in clusters; 3) jot down extraneous thoughts and return to the current activity; and 4) spend an occasional 15 minutes away from your work and reflect on things. Full interview at Entrepreneur.