Multi-tasking: Are you an Addict?


Hi, My name is Sheralyn and I’m a recovering addict.  They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Yes, I am a former multitasking addict and I struggle daily with the constant urge to do more, more, more.  While I certainly don’t wish to make light of addiction, the reality is multitasking is a 21st Century affliction both epidemic in proportion and idealized as virtue. It’s time for a reality check.

When we multitask, we labour (literally) under the illusion that we are doing more, making better use of our time, increasing our efficiency and possibly even that we are saving ourselves or our companies, time, money or both. It has become a much prized value and “ability to multitask” a staple skill set to include on our résumé. Recent research suggests however that such a staple should perhaps not be so prized after all.

Multitasking, studies show, “doesn’t make us any more efficient………we actually perform tasks more slowly because brains need extra time to toggle between tasks.”  Additionally, there is an increasing body of evidence that concludes it is actually bad for us.  “How is it bad? It impedes short-term memory, decreases overall mental performance, and causes stress, hormonally triggering “a vicious cycle where we multi-task, take longer to get things done, then feel harried and compelled to multi-task more,” says journalist John Naish. And the brain-toggling that comes with ongoing multi-tasking shortens our attention, eventually addicting us through spurts of adrenaline continually being released. In the absence of multi-tasking, one study reported in The New York Times concluded, “people feel bored.” (1) That’s right – we’ve become so addicted to all this action and in the process so acclimatized to the “value” of multitasking that the new social norm involves conversations that are vehemently competitive as we seek to establish who is the busiest and can get the most done in the least amount of time. Gone are the Downton Abbey days of one staff to light the fires while another polishes the silver and a third helped dress the Dowager Countess – these days we are each of us individually expected to keep the homes fires lit, burn the candle at both ends at work, set out the silver for dinner while simultaneously cooking it and keep track of it all using our various social media devices. Plus dress the kids and drive them to school, sports or piano practice! (My kingdom for a Governess!)

What then is the alternative?  Drawing media attention (and in fact building momentum of late) is the discussion around the benefits of solo tasking.  It doesn’t require much research to know that having a single – minded focus will help you achieve a level of attention to detail that you simply can’t have while multi-tasking.  Solo tasking requires you to schedule appropriately, ensuring adequate amounts of both your time and resources are allocated to the task. In the scheduling, you will clearly think ahead to what your project entails and properly anticipate all requirements. You increase the odds significantly that you will complete the task during that time-frame because it is the only thing required of you. Distractions and time wasters are substantially reduced because you are not transitioning between various computer screens, running from office to office or scrolling through multiple search engines and then getting sidetracked by social media. (Face it you DO get sidetracked by social media.) In short, if you are polishing the silver you are doing a VERY god job of polishing the silver.  The fires can then be lit when darkness descends – a time more suited for that particular job.

There is such a value placed on the commodity of time now that we have become accustomed to making calls while we drive or sending emails from our laptops while eating lunch.  Hopefully you are using Bluetooth but what happens when the caller requests you to make a note of something? Do you pull over to write it down? Swerve madly all over the road as you attempt to talk, drive and write? And what of your laptop? How many times have you spilled (or come perilously close to spilling) your lunch or coffee all over the keyboard.  The “benefits” of multitasking are rapidly lost when you have an accident in either scenario.  Better for your physical and mental state to solo task.  If you’re driving a car, for Pete’s sake just drive and couldn’t we all use even 15 minutes break to eat and recharge our batteries? Your efficiencies will gain exponentially when you return, refocused and re-energized.

If you work in a creative field sometimes “ideas happen.”  They don’t always conform to a schedule, heck I’m sure you’ve even woken up in the night with a brilliant idea. Solo tasking doesn’t have to put an end to that  – keep a notepad handy and if an idea for another project does makes its way into your head don’t shut down the whole works – just jot the idea down in point form so you don’t lose your train of thought and then immediately return to what you were doing.  Make organizing your time (not juggling it) the virtue and valued skill set. A properly organized and prioritized workday, with single – minded focus and clarity of objectives, will ultimately make you more productive than trying to juggle a three – ring circus. Because unless you spent years of practicing to become a juggler – something is bound to get dropped!


(1)www.todayschristianwoman – march april 2013


As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed?  Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.

Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.

Writing Right For You

Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!

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