Multitasking: The beauty and beast

It would be hypocritic of me if I don’t mention that I was multitasking when I wrote this.

I began my writing session hoping to get into a state of “Flow” only to find myself switching between writing this article and fighting off my cats who rudely demand food as soon as I start to type (they have eaten already).

However, I do believe my years of experience in the field and facing the consequences thereof should suffice to tell you about both the beastly and beautiful side of multitasking.

But before begin we must ask ourselves one question –

MULTITASKING, WHO ART THOU?

We can define multitasking as performing two or more tasks simultaneously/ in rapid succession/ interchanging between them.
At first glance it doesn’t seem so bad a deal does it? Feels like a steal actually! You can do twice the work in half the time, WOWZA!
But sister, that’s where the beast hides, it lures you in with a bait (of pretentious productivity) and then traps you in a castle (of serious brain damage)

WAIT WHAT? TRAPS?

Yes honey, traps that can do irreversible damage to your brain (unless you use two separate brains together, then multitask to your heart’s content, you have my blessings.) these damages are in the form of –

  1. Loss of time – Studies have shown that people lose significant amounts of time. Initially the time lost is negligible – about 1/10ths of second but added up over a period of time when multitasking takes place, the time reaches proportions where it outweighs the perceived sense of productivity.
  2. Decreasing ability to think deeply – I have personally been a victim of this (I am still not completely capable of deep analysis which is why you see this article sprawling everywhere like a limbless doll) however, this point is particularly detrimental to young brains which are still growing, what they need is some food for thought not continuous switching of actions
  3. Decreasing attention span – spreading our awareness and attention so thin will result is attention deficiency (ADHD) and swallow awareness which in turn decreases our ability to do any kind of mental labor. So basically, you become a goldfish capable of breathing outside water (That’s cool too though.)
  4. More mistakes – when we are continuously multitasking we cannot do both the things with 100% accuracy and efficiency, so we are bound to make mistakes.
  5. Increased anxiety – Because we are making mistakes you are naturally tensed and stressed over getting the job done right. And as we all know anxiety is not good for anybody.
  6. Decreased productivity – “To do two things at once is to do neither” Because we are paying switching costs (the focus and brain power we are losing when we are switching between two tasks) and taking more time to do the same task, we are decreasing our own productivity levels. Studies have shown that doing one task at a time has proved to be more efficient than multitasking
  7. No flow – Due to the continuous attention shifting we are unable to get into what Shonda Rhimes calls – “the hum” (“the hum is the light and air. The hum is God’s whisper right in my ear.”) This State of continuous focus has made global leaders, but multitasking prevents you from reaching that potential.
  8. Health impacts – With all that negativity going around in your brain, you are losing sleep or at least the brain is so exhausted that it is equivalent of losing a night’s sleep. This is bad news for your both your body and mental health.


So, is multitasking the proverbial demon we must avoid or defeat? Heck no.
It is the Belle of the ball. YOU are responsible for turning her into a beast if you forget to cherish her and treat her right. To keep her like the princess she deserves to be, we can multitask in following ways (for different time periods) –

IN OUR DAILY LIVES:

  • Muscle memory tasks – Divide your attention only and only when you have complete, absolute and unconditional mastery over an action. We are talking about actions that are so natural, so habitual to you that you don’t have to give a second thought about it anymore, it comes from pure muscle memory.
  • Solid planning – Start or end your day with some solid planning where in you put in the huge unmovable rock (time period) of “focused work” This rock should be according to your capacity – it may range of 15 minutes to 90 minutes (Robin Sharma in his book “5 AM Club” suggests that you should use the first working hour of the day for deep focused work)
  • Set time for trivial tasks – tasks like replying to texts or emails, checking social media, posting etc should be done in a set time frame and must be strictly adhered to.

IN OUR WHOLE LIFE :

Yes, I am asking you to multitask for your whole life. I am asking you to multitask but take it slow. In his Ted Talk, Tim Harford explains that slow-motion multitasking is the most powerful way to be creative and produce remarkable work. When he says multitasking, he means taking up multiple projects and working on them for the entirety of life. He urges us to take up a project and when we hit a dead end to turn to another and start working on it. He states the following reasons in support of multitasking –

  • Creativity often comes when you take an original idea and apply it to a different context
  • Cross training your mind in completely unrelated fields actually broadens the scope of your own subject and understand. In a study, medical students were taken to Philadelphia art museum and taught about art history and how to analyze art. When they were compared with the control group they were found to be better at diagnosing diseases just by looking at photographs.
  • Often sticking on one project for a long time which produces no tangible results can make you depressed and sad. So, turning to another project helps you be refreshed and eager to tackle the problem.

In conclusion, multitasking is a story in your hands. It is your choice to make it a fairytale of your dreams or a nightmare that you can’t wake up from.

Categories: Lifestyle, study

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