Sunday, June 06, 2010

Giving Up on Multitasking

I am giving up on multi-tasking. If you know me, you have probably seen me doing all kinds of magic on the computer with mutiple browser windows, browser tabs, applications, and messaging all fired-up to switch from one task to another in an instant.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that human beings are very lousy at multitasking. Yes, we may be doing two or three things at once; but in the long-run, it takes us longer to accomplish these things in parallel than it would have taken us to do them in series. So, if saving time is your goal, then multitasking is one of the the last things you should do.

Not only do you take longer to accomplish tasks when switching back and forth, you also do a worse job than if you had focused on one task.

Having a smartphone is great. It allows me to do many of the same things that I would normally do at a computer. As a matter of fact, I check more email and other messages on my phone than at the computer. However, I have started to question the value of knowing when email comes in. So, I started with turning off audio notifications. This alone saved a lot of time as I'm not checking the phone with every ding. However, I still check more frequently than necessary because there is a visual notification. I'm going to turn that off next and only check messages when I choose to check rather than when they come in. That includes text messages. No more interruptions except phone calls, which I don't get many of.

Also from now on, only one window open on my desktop at a time. This is a bit tricky and will probably be violated when writing, which invariably requires reading other references. Having multiple applications running leads one to compulsively switch amongst them for no good reason.

Social media is another time eater. I think I can batch my interactions rather than constantly checking or being notified what others are doing.

Finally, working without a plan has to stop. One of the reasons why I am a vicious multitasker is because of a lack of forethought. There is that saying that if you believe in nothing, you'll fall for anything. Similarly, if you don't have a plan on what to do with your time, you'll do anything and everything. Having a plan in place should keep me focused on the work that needs to get done.

I am on the fence about turning off my phone or the ringer when I'm working. Interruptions are another variant of multitasking. The damage is done from having to switch from one task to another, which interruptions cause. For now, I do not get too many phone calls; however, that may change as I choke off other channels for people to communicate with me.

What do you think? Will it work?
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