Multitasking is bullshit


If we want the best outcomes, we have to take the best actions.

We can’t take the best actions unless we understand the situation.

We can’t understand the situation unless we pay attention to what’s going on.

We can’t pay attention to what’s going on without focus.

We can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

If we want to take the best actions, we need to stop trying to do seven things at once.

Multitasking is bullshit.

One thing at a time

Stepping stones in water

We all feel the tension and stress as too many things compete for our time and attention.

It’s being stretched too thin. Buffeted from one task, meeting, engagement or demand to the next. Left with no time to absorb the complexities and nuance of each situation, let alone try to solve it.

The phone in our pocket never stops buzzing:

“Darren has uploaded a new photo.”

“How to make your life better with this one weird trick.”

“You won’t believe how these 10 celebs look after a diet of kale and weasels.”

It’s no wonder that we feel the need to manage these competing demands by tackling a few of them at the same time.

I’ll write the report while I check some emails. I’ll eat lunch while I read the treatment. I’ll finish the proposal while I’m in the meeting.

We double and triple up on simultaneous activities because we think they make us more effective. In fact they have the opposite effect.

Multi-tasking is hugely damaging to our productivity because it comes with such a bevy of hidden costs. It feels like you’re getting more done, but that’s just because your brain is struggling under the burden of all the things you’ve loaded into it.

Multitasking forces us to pay a tax in attention and will power, let’s call it The Brain Tax.

When you switch back and forth between tasks, you pay The Brain Tax.

When you hold more than one subject in your RAM at the same time, you pay The Brain Tax.

When you start something and then leave it incomplete while you move onto something else, you pay The Brain Tax.

Anytime you’re not doing and then completing one thing at a time, you’re paying The Brain Tax which erodes your concentration, efficiency and effectiveness.

If you want to get a lot done, then focus on one thing at a time. Start it, finish it and then move on to the next thing. If you’re worried about the landscape shifting while you’ve got your head down, then do a quick sweep of your priorities between task.

You’ll get more done. You’ll be more effective. You’ll feel better about what you leave behind.

We can’t do everything, but we can certainly commit to one thing at a time.