Multi-tasking? No Thanks, I Prefer Tunnel Vision Tasking
In this life, we’re all out here juggling multiple responsibilities and roles across our personal and professional lives.
Multitasking, we’re told, is the solution when faced with multiple demands and limited time. It’s a buzzword on every job you’ve ever applied for. It’s the question every interviewer wants to know: How good are you at multitasking?
But rather than asking us how well we simultaneously juggle multiple tasks, this question often seems to imply, “Can you manage to do more than one thing in a day?” The unequivocal answer is, of course, yes.
So why is our culture so obsessed with multi-tasking when it’s clear that to get a job done, you need to give it your undivided attention.
It must be because doing two things at the same time is faster than doing them one after the other… Right?
As a social media manager, when I sit down to work, I get emails, notifications, have multiple tabs open, my phone nearby, and contractors to manage. While I like to kid myself that quickly answering an email and then returning to writing some social content is a great feat of multitasking, my output, as well as the scientific evidence, tells me otherwise.
In reality, psychiatrist Edward Hallowell aptly characterized multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.” Engaging in multitasking can not only diminish our productivity but also impair our capacity to learn.
Thankfully, there exists an alternative approach to enhance your efficiency: the practice of tunnel-vision tasking.
The Multi-tasking myth Although “multitasking” has become a common term in the English language, it was originally coined in the 1960s and was not linked to human productivity. Instead, it was initially associated with computers handling multiple tasks.
But we’re not computers… In our human capacity, it may appear that we’re juggling numerous tasks at once, but in reality, we engage with one task at a time. The illusion of multitasking is created by swiftly transitioning from one activity to another, such as opening an email, saving a document, and streaming an audiobook in rapid succession. Rather than truly multitasking in parallel, we often execute tasks in a sequential manner.
Canadian author Michael Harris aptly describes this phenomenon as “When we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually multi-switching.” Multitasking might give us the illusion of busyness, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to enhanced productivity; in fact, it often diminishes our efficiency.
In a study conducted by researchers Kevin Madore and Anthony Wagner, they delved into the brain’s response when attempting to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Their findings revealed that “the human mind and brain lack the architecture to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” This emphasizes the limitations of our cognitive capacity when it comes to true multitasking.
Did you know that individuals who engage in multitasking frequently tend to inaccurately perceive their efforts as effective?
Research has shown that multitasking fosters an inflated sense of confidence in one’s multitasking abilities. Paradoxically, despite our shortcomings in multitasking, we often struggle to recognize these limitations.
Although engaging in micro-level multitasking, like simultaneously managing an online work chat and working on a report, often results in reduced efficiency, it’s essential to recognize that macro-level multitasking is attainable when effectively managing multiple projects concurrently.Nonetheless, research consistently demonstrates that, in most instances, tunnel-vision tasking reigns as the most efficient approach to work.
This is because it eliminates the cognitive costs associated with task-switching and conserves the mental energy that would otherwise be expended on juggling numerous competing tasks…
Tunnel-vision tasking boosts more than just productivity
To single-task or tunnel-vision task as l call it, we must relearn how to focus our attention on one task, rather than becoming drawn into another project or social distraction.
A 2016 analysis of 49 studies found that multitasking negatively impacted cognitive outcomes for young adults in education. Multitasking, for example studying and texting, actually reduced educational achievement and increased the amount of time it took to complete homework.
Even worse, students who multitasked in class failed to offset the damage done to their final grades — even if they put in additional hours of study at home to try to make up for it. It is clearly difficult to combat the damage caused by multitasking. In contrast, tunnel-vision tasking can help you meet your targets with more success.
By intentionally blocking out distractions from your environment, you can counteract the stop-start nature of task-switching and instead reach a flow state.This means you can concentrate solely on the current task without disruptions, ultimately resulting in enhanced productivity within a shorter duration.
How to get into the tunnel-vision tasking mode
At Neurosity, the Crown is our gateway to the flow state. It makes tunnel-vision tasking so much easier.Here are our top techniques for getting into flow:
Create a Distraction-Free Workspace To optimize your focus, it’s crucial to establish an environment that minimizes distractions, both digital and physical. Here’s how:
Digital Environment: Turn off email notifications, and designate specific times for checking your emails, such as when you begin work, during lunchtime, and an hour before finishing for the day. This prevents email interruptions from derailing your concentration.
Phone Management: Keep your phone out of sight by placing it in your bag or leaving it in a different room. This step reduces the impulse to constantly check for notifications or messages.
Browser Tabs: Close any unnecessary tabs or web browsers unrelated to your current task. This prevents you from getting sidetracked by enticing online sales or breaking news.
Implement the Pomodoro Technique:
Incorporate Meaningful Breaks:In addition to the short Pomodoro breaks, it’s essential to include longer, more substantial breaks to rejuvenate and maintain your energy levels:
Screen-Free Breaks: During your extended breaks, step away from screens and engage in refreshing activities. Consider going for a walk at lunchtime to clear your mind or dedicating 30 minutes to read a book.
Energy Recharge: Recognize that focused work demands energy. Allow yourself these breaks to recharge, reducing the risk of burnout and maintaining consistent productivity.By creating a distraction-free environment, implementing the Pomodoro Technique, and incorporating meaningful breaks — you’ll be equipped to maximize your focus and flow state, by tunnel-vision tasking.