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Myths of Multitasking

Over the last week or so I was in a position where I had too many things to do, or at least I felt like I did. Outside of doing 4 gigs with what were essentially different bands, and learning the music for all of this kind of last minute, I was also learning music for a project in California that I’m about to do, Shooting/Editing Video and audio for my lessons site, doing interviews for this site, getting taxes done, trying to get out of NY jury duty, trying to see 3 different friends that came through town, and on and on. I’m fully aware that I have it much easier than most people.  I’m sure some are reading this and saying they wish that was all they had to worry about.  Everyone ends up in this boat at some point.

Every time I do this….(and there have been many), I realize how low my productivity actually is over the long term. This is to say that I feel like I’m getting a bunch of stuff done but I’m never really as productive as I think. I’ve been reading some books on this subject lately that discuss the importance of time and it’s management.  The reality is that when you switch your focus that much, it takes your mind some time to shift over to the new task.  Most of us are not great at just “dropping” one thing and moving to another, and if you are attempting to do this you will find that you are in reality much LESS productive, and the quality of your work is usually lower. Not to mention your stress level is usually much HIGHER. Then you will find yourself subconsciously looking for escapes from the stress, such as meaningless time killing activities, procrastination, etc. Then nothing gets done at all, and by the end of it you feel like complete shit. I think the whole multitasking thing is a Myth, although it’s one that I seem to continue to participate in. However,If you take five minutes and do some planning you can alleviate most of the issues I just discussed.

First you have to think a couple of days or even a week ahead. Envision every single hurdle that will interfere with your time,including visits from your mother in law, girlfriend, family things, etc. Then write down what you need to do before the end of the week and then put it into blocks of time. DO IT BY THE WEEK AND NOT BY THE DAY. If you look at it over a broader period of time you are much less likely to be overwhelmed. What most of us don’t realize is that when we break this down most of the things that we think will take forever can be done in under an hour.  Usually the problem ends up not being the time itself, but the fact that we don’t want to make the phone call, or deal with the issue, etc. One of the books Im reading asks the reader at the end of a chapter to do something they have been putting off BEFORE they close the book other words right now. It then mentions that most CAN’T do this. This is the big time waster.  And worrying about it costs you time and focus as well. It was tough for me too, but when I forced myself to actually email those people, make the calls, do the paperwork, etc. I realized that it didn’t even take HALF the amount of time I had envisioned. Thereby saving me HOURS of stress, and wasted focus. Of course there are going to be things that come up that have to be dealt with immediately. You can fit those in by bookmarking where you are and returning to it ASAP. The key here again is not to lie to yourself and say things like “i’ll do it tonight” and then not do it. Specifically placed deadlines (such as “in a week from today”) are crucial, and will end up being your best friend in the world of productivity.

"Smoking Pot Actually Lowers your IQ less than Multitasking"- Tim Ferris.

I think the biggest problem with Multitasking are the long term side effects. Its easy to fall into it and let BIG things slide, and it soon becomes a habit. That is, putting off meaningless things that will cost you twice the time down the road. Not paying bills on time, taxes, things of this nature come to mind.  Pretty soon the stuff stacks up and you literally have to stop your life to fix them. Then you lose much more time than you would of if you have just stopped and dealt with it in the beginning. Not to mention the stress level is MUCH higher this way.

The Video below diagrams multitasking and its effect on teenagers……. try not to multitask while you watch it: