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A Quick Thought – Rapid Task Switching

By February 26, 2020Articles

The topic of multi-tasking was raised at a Culture & Wellness breakfast I attended last week. When the speaker told the audience it was impossible to multi-task, there were a few raised eyebrows, particularly from the women in the room! It made me laugh as I perceived it as a ‘Really? Do you know who I am and what I do?’ raise of the eyebrow!

The speaker was 100% correct. It is impossible to multi-task. Numerous studies have proved it. What we are doing is switching focus because we can only focus on one thing at a time. So really what we are doing when we think are multi-tasking is rapid task switching.

Multi-tasking used to be something that was seen as a positive skill, and in many circles still is. We seemed to pride ourselves on how many tasks we could do at once and think we ere being super efficient and productive. However, this has been discredited by numerous studies over the last decade.

What we know now is this rapid task switching doesn’t allow our brain to focus on one task, which is all it’s designed to handle, which leads to mistakes being made and people being inefficient. It also prevents the brain from going into the deep thinking mode that is required for creativity and insight. And given our current competitive and challenging environment, that is exactly what we need to be allowing our brain to do – think!

Studies have also shown that it takes us on average 25 minutes to be able to completely refocus on a task that we were distracted from. So when you are distracted by your phone or a colleague, that right there is 25 minutes on top of the time taken up by the distraction. Multiple that out by how many times you’re distracted throughout the day. This is not productive in anyone’s language.

So when you go to plug your headphones in before you get set to stare at your computer screen to do a task and then glance at your mobile phone when you receive a ring, ping, or ding – know that you are three way focusing – and that is not efficient or effective. Nor is it productive. Try focusing on one task at a time and I can guarantee you, your efficiency, effectiveness and productivity will skyrocket! Yes, even the women reading this!