Multi-Tasking + Task Switching

Multi-tasking used to be all the rage, remember that?  We'd put it on resumés and brag about it on social media.  Then finally experts on productivity got loud enough that we could actually make out what they were saying, because, you know, we were too busy doing seventeen other things.  You know what they said?

Multi-tasking is less efficient.

When we multi-task, we divide our attention and our brain power.  We are more apt to make mistakes because our divided attention and our ability to concentrate is diminished.  We might get a lot done, but nothing is done particularly well.

So, you've probably heard of that before and you've corrected the situation and your resumé.  But what about task switching?  Task switching is when you go from one thing to the next, such as drawing to checking your email.  

Not only does multi-tasking make you less efficient, so does frequent task switching.

Okay, so now we're supposed to work on only one thing at a time and never get any breaks?!  Yes, and no.  If the goal of the day is to finish editing and posting photos of your latest work onto your website and you think it will only take you two hours, you should just buckle down and do it.  Put your phone down, turn off email notifications, just do it.  With that kind of focus, it might not even take you two hours.

For projects that take a longer time to finish, i.e. days, weeks, months, years, it is good to schedule in your breaks.  Commit to working for an hour straight before checking Facebook or going to the bathroom.  Then commit to how long you will take your break!

Wait, why?

When you minimize your task switching, you encourage your brain to focus and you maximize your time and energy.

Frequent task switching also calls for frequent brain switching.  When you're working and get into the blissful "zone", you're not thinking about Instagram.  Your brain is totally focused.  Think about all that you accomplish when you're in the "zone".  In order to encourage that focus, you have to stop dividing your own attention.

As you switch tasks, your brain takes a few seconds to catch on to what's going on.  This is an extreme example to make my point:  After having an argument with someone we care about, it is often hard to focus on anything else.  Our brain is stuck in the argument and our emotions are all mixed up in it.  It takes time to switch out of that experience and into a different one.  The same thing happens when you're trying to paint after checking email every five minutes, just on a much smaller scale.  Your brain lags between email and painting, making your attention divided.

So next time you're working on a project, and you're tempted to see what I've posted on Instagram, just finish up what you're doing or wait until your scheduled break.  I'll be there when you're ready.