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

      1. 1

        I love the way you spoke about busy-ness @joshirucha. It's so true. That's why I became a big fan of sprint sessions with super focus on one task. I even went ahead and added that feature to Brutask recently.

    2. 1

      Good to hear your thoughts @Joanna_. How are you currently tackling this issue? Any particular methods working out for you? Maybe me and others might find your ideas useful!

      1. 1

        @siddhitaupare sure thing! First of all, I try to focus on one thing, if a task suddenly pops in, I put it on my to-do list. That way I can keep my tasks under control. A really cool tool to manage your time but also your projects (and helps you avoid harmful multitasking) is Firmbee. I was skeptical at first because I've always preferred to make my lists on paper, the traditional way, but this is a game changer for me. You can prioritize, tick off tasks that have been completed, and the visual aspect helps you keep track of everything easily :-)
        I hope I helped a little bit! Goodluck xx

        1. 1

          Ohh that's really cool yeah! I checked out firmbee too, seems like a robust app 👀

          You know, even I used to prefer paper lists. I tried finding new solutions, felt that complex tools with lot of features were actually being counter productive for me.

          I just wanted a simple tool, that will get the job done. And so I just ended up solving the problem by creating Brutask :)

          1. 1

            Yeah I get it totally!

            Brytask looks really cool, I might wanna use it as well! ;-)

  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

      Yes that's very true @stpe. Identifying the reason for jumping is definately a great way to understand where one might be losing focus and optimizing accordingly.

    2. 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.

    1. 1

      First of all, I realize it took you a lot of time and effort to make such a detailed and honest comment, and I'm very happy to read that.

      The concept of primary and secondary task seems new to me. Your examples were fantastic! I could relate very well to those ideas such as writing a blog post, because I have been trying to do it myself lately.

      I haven't tried this method before but now that I've read this idea, I will be experimenting this very soon haha! Might even share my results and make a post on this soon. Will surely tag you in it, @unsungNovelty 😄

      Thanks again!

      1. 1

        Glad you found it useful @siddhitaupare. The idea stemmed from by background of tracing roads in OpenStreetMap.org (It's like wikipedia, but for maps). There are many road classifications. A couple of them are primary and secondary road classifications which both handles varied amount traffic for varied purposes. Just repurposed the idea for productivity cos primary and secondary are easy to remember but also felt appropriate. :)

        It works for me so I was happy to share my thoughts on it. Do let me know how it goes. Also yes, tagging me would be nice to find out if others found it useful too. :)

        PS: If it works for you, there is a chance that you might be keen on adding a tertiary task. A little heads up that it did not work for me at all.

  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 :)

    1. 2

      Yeah, no absolutely @wellymulia. Everyone's definition of multitasking varies massively. Even for me, I love listening to instrumental music only while working.

      For some reason, I focus actually increases with background music haha! And great, it's nice to hear that you work on one task at a time!

      Btw, any instrumental music channels you can recommend? Personally, I just stick to the live radio jazz channels on YouTube.

      1. 1

        I use spotify. I listen to jazz ones, high tempo ones, white noise ones, forest birds chirping ones, raining and lightning ones, ocean waves, etc.

        1. 1

          That's nice! 💡
          I love high tempo too ✨

  5. 1

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

    1. 1

      Bang on @Dan5782. Two different things with two widely different meanings.

  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.

    1. 1

      Woah, a sci-fi book? That's something new and unique @vlexaargas😲

      Yeah even I feel the same. Although like you said, it can't work for tasks that need brain power, multitasking actually makes boring tasks fun to do!

      I loved your opinion as well. Being a founder actually means developing this like a skillset can actually help out in the future.

      Since you shared that it got better overtime, can you share any tips or ways you used to work on honing in on this skill? Might help out everyone reading your thoughts 🙌

      1. 1

        Hmm, like most skills, there’s really no substitute for time and repetition. That said, I’ll try to add something more useful :p.

        When I started context switching a lot, there was a sort of momentum to it that made me swap tasks too often. Like, before I was finished with the previous one. I just felt distracted. I had to keep reminding myself to finish my task before moving. Over time I just got better at entering focus more quickly and keeping it through the task.

        Also, lists!! Have never been one to make lists but I’ve grown to love them. Its somehow reassuring because I don’t have to hold the list in my head and helps me enter “execution” mode. Also, checking things off is undeniably satisfying.

        Thank you for facilitating interesting conversation!

  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.

    1. 2

      Makes sense @csallen. Even I feel that lot of people have glorified this concept that "if you can multitask, you are being productive" but that's so not true.

      Doing 10% of 10 things is waste as compared to doing 100% (or even 80%) of one thing.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  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.

    1. 1

      Yeah I agree on this one as well @Primer.

  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.

    1. 1

      I'm happy to see that you are so self aware that multitasking doesn't work for you. It's crucial to know what works for us individually you know.

      Haha yeah I guess along the way while growing up, we just learnt how to filter through background and focus on our tasks 😉

  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.

    1. 1

      Setting up timelines and deadlines is a proven method to boost productivity indeed! I myself feel that without deadlines, I loose focus while working.

      I would love to read your article @shubhamkushwah. Do share it whenever it's live!

      1. 1

        Hi @siddhitaupare, I have written one on the Pomodoro timer, and how to effectively use it. Here's the article: https://veonr.com/blog

        I'm also working on a task management tool for indie hackers, which allows you to manage multiple side projects easily.

        Gathering feedback for it here: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/would-you-use-this-task-manager-in-beta-21602334a9

  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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