As I have observed many times, there are themes that crop in multiple books. And when this happens, I think they hint at true truth. That is, the kind of truth that is genuinely important, something to pay a lot of attention to.
Here’s one that was reemphasized again this morning. My colleague Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of The Way We’re Working isn’t Working, the new book by Tony Schwartz. And the book, with lots of really useful counsel, says this about our multitasking world:
The most surprising drawback of multitasking is the growing evidence that it isn’t even efficient… Once we’re distracted by something new, we often forget about the original task… The ultimate consequence of juggling many tasks is not superficiality but rather overload.
There are so many books and articles that are making this point in one way or another. The point is this:
MULTITASKING DOES NOT WORK!
Singletasking is the need of the hour, not multitasking.
Here are some other quotes to reinforce this now seemingly everywhere-present theme:
From ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson:
Instead, you should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done.
During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings. Just shut up and get to work. You’ll be surprised how much more you get done.
From The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp:
The irony of multitasking is that it’s exhausting; when you’re doing two or three things simultaneously, you use more energy than the sum of energy required to do each task independently. You’re also cheating yourself because you’re not doing anything excellently. You’re compromising your virtuosity. In the worlds of T. S. Eliot, you’re “distracted from distractions by distractions.”
From Superfreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner:
A person using a computer experiences “cognitive drift” if more than one second elapses between clicking the mouse and seeing new data on the screen. If ten seconds pass, the person’s mind is somewhere else entirely.
I think the jury is in. Learn to singletask, really well. Work with depth and attention and focus on one-thing-at-a-time.
You can leave the multitasking to those who will be left behind by their lack of focus.