Multitasking: Is it real or just another myth? 🤷‍♂️

How many of you are reading this post with 10 more tabs open on your laptop or scrolling through Instagram on your phone? We have all become efficient at multi-tasking but are we effective, that is a question we often fail to ask ourselves.

Research says that when we work on multiple things at once, what we’re essentially doing is serial tasking. This means shifting from one task to another in rapid succession. For example, if you’re reading this post now and then stopping and switching to replying to a text, you’re essentially serial tasking.

Is this serial tasking any good? Can you do multiple things at a time?

The answer is: YES, provided the nature of your tasks.

For example, you can multitask when the tasks you are working on use different parts of your brain. For example, listening to music and putting your clothes in the laundry. But when it comes to working on a project report and reading an article on productivity, you’re not going to be that effective.

So, the wise choice would be to focus on one thing at a time for these tasks. Instead of correcting mistakes later and breaking concentration every now and then, find the right balance between multitasking and single focus.

How do you go about your tasks? 🤔

Siddhita ❤️

  1. 6

    I used to think that multitasking was a great skill. Now I see that when I multitask, nothing really gets done and I can't concentrate well. I'm working on it, so now if I have a bigger tasks to complete, I'm trying to do one thing by one.

    1. 2

      Same. Multi-tasking gives me a sense of busy-ness and the yet at the end of the day I am exhausted and have achieved much lesser than what I had set out to do.

      So now I segment my day and allocate time slots for each task. When I need to hyper-focus I plug into white noise

  2. 3

    Multitasking is often a symptom of procrastination (for me) and a red flag where I should ask myself what makes me jump from one task to another, instead of sticking with one until it is done.

    However, some tasks simply don't require that much focus or thought. And those are also no problem jumping in between. Good to save to when you only have 15 minutes or so.

    1. 1

      Totally agree with you

  3. 1

    I believe in doing one thing at a time too. But I add some spice to it. I have a primary and secondary task. I am a big fan of going with the flow. Organic way of moving forward is important to me which is why I have a primary and secondary task. This keeps me more efficient and productive without having to waste my whole day during the rainy days.

    Primary task: The current task with highest priority. The game stopper if you will.
    Secondary task: A task which is more casual, with very less priority or less difficulty.

    The idea is to do the primary task as long as you are in the zone and switch to the secondary task when you aren't. Like when you get stuck and have tried going for a walk but that still didn't fix it. Or when you become completely blocked even after trying everything, I switch to my secondary task.

    I would like to think that secondary task as a task which will tingle your creative side or something more casual/less difficult. Like writing a blog post which you have been wanting to do. Or my favourite - working on new features for my personal website. This IMO does the same effect to you as when you do a simple task to make you feel good sometimes.

    While I choose my secondary task only after trying out all my options to get back at my primary task (like going for a walk or sleeping on it). You can substitute the secondary task for a walk or taking a break depending the time of the day or your current mood. You just need to choose an appropriate task as your secondary task.

    PS: It is extremely important to NOT take up two tasks which are of the same priority/difficulty as your primary and secondary tasks. It will not help and will make your rainy days even more worse.

  4. 1

    I don't consider listening to music plus doing something else... multasking or serial tasking 😅

    I listen to music 100% of the time when I work, but instrumental music only.

    That said, I work one single task at a time. I don't buy in the multitasking or serial tasking thing.

    My browser tab typically only have 3 - 5 taps opened :)

  5. 1

    Multitasking is a productivity killer. Founders and teams should never confuse "being/getting busy" and "being productive."

  6. 1

    Interesting post and the example of listening to music while doing laundry is a good one. For me it’s listening to a good sci-fi audiobook while rowing :). Real multi-tasking is useful for mitigating the suck factor during mundane tasks but professionally useless if you work an intellectually demanding job.

    I disagree with folks saying that being able to rapidly context switch serially is not a useful skill. Tis’ a tool in the toolbox like any other. For example, I am currently the director of dev for a small co. Really, it’s a service position that means I’m constantly switching between giving clients advice, chasing down requirements, debugging, coding small annoying things that would just be a distraction for other folks. Basically running ahead of the team and making sure their path is clear and working to put people in positions they’ll be able to do really well.

    Coming from a background of deep focused programming work, it was a really hard switch. But it got better over time. Now I feel like a force multiplier for a really smart group of engineers.

    Might not want to do it forever but am glad to have the skill in my back pocket for when it makes sense in the future.

  7. 1

    Multitasking is overrated. It's better to just hyper focus, do the thing you need to do, and move on. If your schedule is so packed that you feel that you need to multitask, you're likely taking on too much work, and should reduce the number of projects you have, or reduce their scope.

  8. 1

    The biggest problem with multi tasking is context switching. Our brains just aren't wired for it, no matter what some people say.

  9. 1

    I find this topic really interesting and in general, multitasking doesn't work for me.

    I usually work with music in the background, but I remember when I was 14 years old, spending some of my afternoons after school, listening to music with my brother, the only thing that we did was just listen to the music, and I think that it is a completely different experience compared to putting my music while doing some other things.

  10. 1

    Hi @siddhitaupare, indeed an interesting topic, I usually divide tasks based on the projects.
    And I feel like defining a strict time for each project/task is not ideal as it restricts productivity and kills enthusiasm. Just having defined a few tasks for the day for each project of yours and at the end of the day checking on them if those are done or not, seems a very natural and nice flow that has worked for me.

    I might write a 5-minute article on this topic actually, let me know if you'd be interested in the take.

  11. 1

    Hi, @siddhitaupare!

    Actually, I've recently had been dealing with issues with multitasking, especially when working on BotMeNot, my latest project.

    The best practice for me seems to be dividing the day into smaller chunks of productivity related to a specific task (and trying not to have 1 very similar task right after the previous one).

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