Why You Should Stop Multi-tasking
I have given up on multi-tasking completely, it’s junk. I have found that I am much more effective if I fully focus on what I do. I have compartmentalized my life so that I can give my full attention to each aspect of my life throughout the day. I do my best not to juggle multiple projects or tasks. I do my best not to flip my attention back and forth between things. When I turn away from my son to do the dishes, I know that I am consciously choosing to focus on my home rather than my family, and by doing this I can more quickly accomplish the task at hand so that I can turn my attention back to the things that matter the most to me.
“People can’t multitask very well, and when they say they can, they are deluding themselves,” says neuroscientist Earl Miller. “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
New research suggests that humans aren’t capable of multi-tasking at all, and the idea of productivity while multi-tasking is a myth. When we think we are multitasking, all we are doing is switching our attention from one task to the other, without giving either task the attention it needs. We are having to constantly re-gather information to come back to previous tasks and get started on them again. Studies have shown that we frequently overestimate our ability to multi-task. You can’t do it, so stop trying.
Giving up the attempt at multi-tasking is the only way that I can balance everything in my life. I am a single working mom with a budding business. I am not one who can operate effectively on anything less than eight hours of sleep, and ideally more. I have divided my day into predictable routines to cut down on the number of decisions I have to make. I choose to focus fully on whatever I have turned to within each block of time that makes up the structure of my life.
When I am at work, I work hard. Really hard. I stay on task and accomplish a lot. I have a ton of responsibility in my role, and I could easily bring work home with me, even if only in thought. But I do my best to leave work at work. Most of the time I am successful. I hold a boundary with myself not to check my email unless I am prepared to work in that moment. I have a “Do Not Disturb” setting on my phone that is active from 8pm to 7am. I don’t look at me email in the morning before heading to work unless all of my other goals have been accomplished (which is rare).
I also block out times of my day to clean, exercise, play with my son, cook, meal prep, practice self-care and work on the business. I never get everything done. But I do a lot, and generally I do it well. I think this is because I have scrapped the idea of trying to multitask altogether. I am so much more efficient now. I have to be.