Time Management / Productivity Skills

Multitasking vs Monotasking


1. What is multitasking?

These four practices — multitasking, task switching, getting distracted and managing multiple projects — all fit under the label “multitasking”.

- Financial Times article


2. People who don't support multitasking say multitasking is a myth, and our brain spends 5% of its energy in switching between tasks, which eventually leads us to be less productive. However, supporters of multitasking say losing 5% energy is nothing, and also that


They say our mind can’t concentrate for 20 minutes productively, and so the little breaks (internet/email etc.) actually refreshes our brain.


What we’re often calling multitasking is in fact internet addiction.

- Shelley Carson, psychologist


3. It also depends on what kind of tasks we are switching between. Switching between a 'task' task (like work task) and a little of social media usage 'may' refresh our brain, but when we try to do two important tasks at the same time, then it is calling for trouble. Important task or any work task mean just one work task in a particular chunk of time.


4. It also depends on people. Some people can work on for lengthier periods of time on a task without needing to switch to another task to 'refresh'.


5. When we have to deal with multiple tasks in a limited time: A better approach is to batch similar tasks and do them one by one, and moving to next series of related tasks only when the first batch is done. That's why some people find it productive to do all emails at one go, and similarly taking up phoning, meetings etc.


6. Another way to effective multitasking is to find out what tasks you can combine without reducing the productivity on each task more than the overall gain. One way to do it is to pair one task requiring mental focus with another 'non serious task' - for example, listening to music while editing a document, or reading anew programming guide while traveling to work.


All other techniques to multitask better involve using any of the productivity techniques - time boxing, Pomodoro, etc.


Thank you for reading.
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