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The Myth of Multitasking
Learn to Prioritize the ONE Thing
Many of us claim to be great at multitasking. Who hasn’t boasted about being able to cook breakfast, take a phone call, and get the kids out the door in time to catch the school bus without missing a beat? Here’s the thing: Even if you managed to get all those things done in the morning, would you call the results great? Odds are the toast burned, the phone call was interrupted every 30 seconds, and you were so distracted by everything else, you forgot to make sure the kids grabbed their lunches. The truth is that humans are terrible at multitasking, and recent research proves it! Our brains aren’t designed to focus on more than one task at a time. Sure, we can walk and chew gum at the same time, but we can’t focus on the flavor of the gum and the contours of the sidewalk at the same time. It’s one or the other at any given moment. When you are working on a project but take a phone call while doing so, you aren’t really focusing on either the project or the call. You’re “switching” your attention from one part of your brain to another in rapid succession. I have to turn my email notifications off when I’m working on a case because I am compelled to answer every email that appears in my inbox. When I do this, it takes longer to reply to the email, and the quality of my legal work I should be focusing on suffers. It takes just one-tenth of a second to switch focus, but it takes a lot more energy and time for our brains to really focus or re-focus once diverted. A recent study published in the journal Brain Research found the amount of focus a person devotes to the task of driving decreases by 37 percent when they start
having a conversation with either a passenger or someone on the phone. Every time you try to multitask, you decrease your attention, effort, and productivity on both tasks by almost 40 percent! Recently, I read a great book that discussed just how bad we really are at multitasking and why it behooves us to focus on one thing at a time. “The ONE Thing” by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan discusses the importance of giving our all to a single critical task, and how by doing so, we can accomplish so much more in life. You can’t do it all, so it’s much better to find one thing to focus on that will make everything else easier or unnecessary — hence the title of the book, “The ONE Thing.” The book implores us to seriously examine what that ONE thing is for each of us, because my ONE thing may be very different than yours. Keller and Papasan explain the difference between the big-picture question, “What’s my ONE thing?” and the small-focus question, “What’s my ONE thing right now?” to show that you can, and should, have multiple ONE things. When we identify our ONE thing in any given “The truth is that humans are terrible at multitasking and recent research proves it!”
situation and put all our effort into attaining it, we’re more likely to be successful than if we tried to accomplish a bunch of smaller, less critical tasks in a haphazard manner. It’s an incredibly interesting book and one I highly recommend, especially if you’re guilty of multitasking your way through life. After reading this book, I identified my ONE thing in the important areas of my life: family, spiritual, physical, and professional. In each area I identified my goals for 2019 then asked myself, “What is the ONE thing I should focus on in this area that will make everything else I want to achieve in this area either easier or unnecessary?” It was a very useful exercise and although it’s only been a few months, I’ve already noticed a difference in my ability to get important things done more quickly and with better quality.
When you find something you care about, doesn’t it deserve all your attention?
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