Thursday, April 12, 2012

the war on multitasking.

i have begun waging a war against the concept of multitasking this week.  i also think i’ve been losing said war – but i’m working hard in the trenches.

this great war of mine really began when i read this article by valerie katz which referenced this article by tony schwartz, both of whom explained that: 

“multitasking is the reason that 25-50% of the work force is burned out... multitasking splits one’s attention such that one never completely focuses on one task, and spends a longer time to complete various tasks.  worse yet, multitasking relentlessly burn[s] down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.”

{me, at the end of a work week}

i’ve heard similar ideas before, and i absolutely believe them.  you lose so much time just in bringing your mind back and forth between tasks.  but just because i know what’s better for me doesn’t mean i can execute it easily (just ask any smoker or french-fries-eater!).  i even lost the battle while writing this blog post: i intermittently answered a text, wrote an email to my sister’s bridesmaids, ate dinner and watched survivor with c (sidenote: yes, i still watch survivor.  c’s influence.  but all these years later, it’s still such a good show!).  during my morning “getting ready” routine?  i sometimes find myself blow-drying my hair in the kitchen, putting water on for tea, emptying the dishwasher one-handed, leaving a blog comment and skimming my google reader, virtually simultaneously.  i have begun burning myself out before i even leave the house.  

i know i’m never going to be a perfect single-tasker, but when a task requires a lot of energy and attention to get it done and do it well, i’m going to work hard to shut out the unnecessary and focus for as long as i can.  i’m going to remind myself of tony schwartz’s tips, and i’m going to try to implement them.  this goes for work and while at home.  be honest – how many tabs do you have open on your home computer’s browser right now?  i have 7, and that’s probably below average.  c is constantly making fun of my never-ending tabs, with good reason.              

i so agree with “do the most important thing first thing in the morning” and “stop demanding instant responsiveness,” the latter of which we may not be able to personally change based on our bosses’/clients’/customers’ expectations, but how many times have you answered a personal email immediately just because it was there waiting for you, when you could have delayed the response until you finished what you were working on when it came in?  i do that on a daily basis.  i open my gmail at least 30 times a day while i’m at work, and it’s up all night on my personal computer at home.  and while i put a lot of effort into responding quickly to emails, it often leaves me exhausted.  like last week’s post, there must be balance here.  

i have always prided myself on my multitasking skills, but being “good” at multitasking means that i’m being less efficient and leaving myself depleted.  you may be horrified by my personal statistics, or you may be saying to yourself, “an average of 7 tabs?  psssh, that’s nothing.”  either way, it’s worth taking a minute out of all the multitasking to think about our patterns of behavior – and how to make it better for ourselves.  i admit it, i have gone and burned myself out.  and with no magical head-clearing vacation in the near future, i need to make some changes. 
have any other suggestions on how to break the exhausting multitasking cycle?  help us all out!    

xo. di. 

*image 1,2,3,4,5


  1. So, so true... your examples are perfect. We are all trying to be "efficient" and just making ourselves frazzled and tired in the process. I'll have to check out these tips!

  2. Completely on the same page. It is insane how I absolutely could not JUST watch tv anymore-- just not enough! I must be texting, reading through several different blogs in my google reader, and doing some online shopping at the same time. I also find myself doing this while I am cooking... oh, just throw that in the pot and then whip out the vacuum for a quick cleanup of the living room. Needless to say, the culinary results suffer and my house is nowhere near as clean as if I would just take one thing at a time.

  3. i just read this article yesterday and it rang so true for me. it's so hard to break this habit though because we're primed for it. i also have a very short attention span, which doesn't help. ha.

  4. I completely agree with you on your thoughts of multitasking... Focusing your energy on singles tasks is such a better way to spend your time progressively! Of course we will all multitask as it is such a normal way of living, but trying to devote just a little time to something singly really is a great idea!

  5. Maybe if you 'make' yourself leave only one tab open at a time it will force you to concentrate on only one thing at a least try it when you're trying to finish something! I'm still trying to uni-task (don't think that's a word!) when I'm retired!! I want to learn to appreciate one thing at a time! Good post, D!

  6. Great post, so true! Just thinking of my work day I am constantly jumping back and forth, back and forth between tasks, that can't be very efficient. Kind of feels like that's how we're expected to work though, which is so annoying! Anyway, good food for thought.

  7. melissa - ah thanks, i'm glad it resonated with you

    sarge in charge - ahah love your example. i am forever ruining my cooking because i'm trying to do something else at the same time.

    ashley - exactly, same issues!

    lindsey - exactly!

    diane - haha thanks! and i've been working on the one tab at a time since i first posted this!


thanks so much for the note! i love reading your comments. xo. di.

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