Focus vs Multi Tasking

Today’s world is increasingly dynamic and with growing complexities. What used to be a solution yesterday no longer suffices for the same problem today, because the problem has grown more complex. In years past, we were contented with a 40gb hard drive computer, today, our computers come with dual hard drives and with space as much as 200gb. It is indeed a weird world out there today.

This increased complexity has lured us into trying to cope with all the challenges at the same time. We want to do several things at the same time because we want to step up our game. We call it multi tasking. We are on the phone, while typing a memo, and trying to take our coffee at the same time! Interviewers even ask you how well you do at multi-tasking and you are quick to answer ‘very well.’ Even as multi tasking seems to be having a upper hand, it is coming at a huge cost! Productivity is dipping and error rate is on the rise!

Steven Guise says, “A recent French study found that when humans were given two tasks simultaneously, one task was handled by the right frontal lobe and the other by the left!  Amazing, right?  But once that number was increased to three tasks, one of the initial tasks “disappeared from the brain.”  Even worse, with three tasks, the participants slowed down and made many more mistakes.  Tackling three tasks at once is like running Windows Vista with 256 MB of RAM, except that we can’t add more frontal lobes.” So, the cost of multitasking is drop in productivity.

The very reason why we are multitasking is to increase productivity and stay up with increased pace of activity, but in the process, we actually lose focus and can’t keep track of the multifarious activities we take on at the same time. If you are to multitask at all, keep it at maximum of two tasks. Your right frontal lobe will handle one and the left frontal lobe will handle the other. Anything more than two tasks at a time is disaster!

If you ask me, focus is still the best. You achieve a lot more and in less time with focus (or single tasking). Your efficiency is higher with focus than with multitasking. Error rate is lower with focus. Quality is better with focus. So, if you must choose between focus and multitasking, go for focus. For some interviewers, the moment you tell them you can multi-task, you have lost the job. Companies with passion for high precision and high quality products or services want more of focused staff rather than ‘multi-taskers’. You can time yourself trying to do two or three things at the same time, and check the time against when you do the tasks individually. The difference both in time and quality is always clear.

So, it is time to get back to focus and adopt multitasking only when the tasks are not more than two. Even when you must adopt multitasking, the similarity or relatedness of the tasks matter. The closely related they are the better, which again buttresses the fact that focus is simple and better!

God bless us all.

Good morning Africa!

Good morning Nigeria!


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