At this very moment, while you are reading this, how many tabs do you have open on your laptop/mobile device? Three or five minimum, I’m guessing.

You’ve clicked on this link from an e-mail alert or a social media update, which means that the other window is still open in the background. Am I right?

How about devices? How many are next to you, at this very moment? Two? Maybe more?

Effectively, you are multi tasking. That’s what it looks like.Β It’s the norm. That’s the truth. I won’t tell you it’s worrying or detrimental because well, that’s the way it is. As Christopher Willard says in this piece,

There’s nothing inherently bad or good about technology. Technology just is.

The thing about multi tasking, though, is that it lets us believe that we are doing many things well, when in fact, we are struggling to focus on any one thing effectively.

[bctt tweet=”Doing many things at once is not equal to doing them well. #Mindfulness” username=”shyvish”]

Let’s do a simple experiment. Trust me, this won’t take long.

So, are you ready? Here are a few things you can do now.

Deep breaths:

Now, take a few deep breaths and watch your breathing as you read this post. Focus on the way you inhale and exhale consciously all through the reading. What do you notice? A sense of calm and relaxation will fill you up. For the few minutes that you spend reading, your mind is not jumping in different directions. You can concentrate.

Feeling better? That’s because your mind is directing all its energies to just one task.

Move distractions away:

Social media is a virtual quicksand with all those ways of making you believe that something is more important than the task you are working on, right at this moment.

Go ahead and close all those other windows/ tabs on your browser; move all other gadgets away from you except for the one you’re reading this piece on.

I’ll wait.

What do you notice? You are not edgy, not waiting for that device to ping with a notification, saying that there’s something that needs your attention. How quickly are you able to register what’s being said on this page? There’s your answer.

Make a list:

As soon as you are done with this post, sit down and write out your list of things to be done for the next hour/day. Prioritise them based on urgency. Tick them off one at a time when done. If you manage to complete everything on the list, ask yourself what helped to make it happen. Chances are, you weren’t multi tasking.

Use the 10-minute rule

Personally, this one has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve broken down tasks into ten-minute chunks and felt a sense of accomplishment when I managed to complete them in that time frame.

Any task, for that matter, requires concentration and commitment, if we are to do a good job of it. It’s one reason why writers who truly commit to the art of writing (and manage to get out books) are masters in the art of single-tasking (if there is such a word).

Digital content is the way forward and here to stay and I’d be a hypocrite if I were to ignore all the personal and professional benefits that come my way thanks to the tech era.

What we can do, however, is ensure that our connection to tech remains just that- a connection, not a dependence.


Image courtesy: Multi Tasking via Shutterstock

31 thoughts on “4 Simple Ways to Stop Multi-Tasking

  1. I know, Vishal. It’s a bane of social media. It makes us think we are doing a lot but in reality we do very little. A focused, dedicated time to a single task will reap far more rewards. Glad you found this useful πŸ™‚

  2. Before I started reading, four web pages were open and stopped reading yours to finish them. I closed and came back. I have three devices connected to wifi. Agree! It’s very distracting and shall do the exercise tomorrow morning, jotting on priority. The worse is that I wanna do so much in a day but end up being non-productive. Thank you for this post. Superb way to approach things and live in the NOW.

  3. I enjoyed your post. When I’m working on my manuscript I ensure that all other tabs are closed on my PC, and I turn my phone on silent. It’s the only way I get any work done! πŸ™‚

  4. Haha i do that all the time… multitasking !!! with two young kids at home and husband out most of the times, i have become a sort of expert . So for now i guess I have around 3, checking my bank transactions, reading blogs as well as checking out some clothe on Amazon! And not to forget messages on whats app!!!! howzatt!!!

    But i get your point… Social media is more a distraction and I need to learn to manage my time and prioritise… learning!!!

  5. I quickly counted my tabs. You know how many? 22. :O
    But I will tell you one thing, I am never overworked with the many tabs. I carry them to the next day so that I finish what I had set for. During my reading time, I read as much as I can but if the target is bigger than the time I had set for, I don’t fret.
    I love the tips to manage time, Shailaja. Always work.

  6. Great article! Thank you for the post!
    I’d like you to check out Pomodoro technique. It consists of a 25 minute work/study session and a 5 minute break focusing on only one task at a time.
    or you could check out my article on Productivity.

  7. You are one class apart , to be honest πŸ˜‰ Maybe it does work for some people but I think it may lead to quicker burnout than you’d anticipate. And yes, you are welcome πŸ˜€

  8. I got like 12 tabs open in this window and don’t know how many in the other browser πŸ˜› Reading this I feel like I need to get my things sorted. I am so much into multitasking that if I don’t do it tasks won’t be completed. Yeah… I need a lesson on time management too.

  9. I think I remember this about you from a Twitter conversation with Kanchana from way back. I can’t multi task. If I do the results are shoddy, pretty much immediately.

    Thanks, Sid

  10. I’m horrible at multi-tasking – so I’ve always only done one thing at a time. Of course, it’s another thing that I try and procrastinate about doing that one thing for a long time; but hey, I do eventually get it done.

    Handy tips -esp the 10min rule. I can see it working.

  11. I have now switched to reading on the Tablet, Lata. Better screen size and visibility and I have hardly any other apps on it. So it reduces distraction greatly. Great job on the disabling of notifications πŸ™‚

  12. I am fine as long as the smartphone is away. Need to control my smartphone usage as I use it a lot for reading and I can get lost in it. It eats away my reading time. I have disabled all notifications on it and there is no ping unless it is a direct message to me. Everyone else, will call me anyways. Good tips.

  13. You, are obviously, a class apart πŸ˜‰ I don’t think we make SM the villain so much as the people who populate it. And let’s face it, some of them can be really villainous πŸ˜‰

    I can’t keep Wi-Fi switched off on the phone during work hours. Our remote team connects over Whatsapp, so I need the phone on. BUT, I only acces Whatsapp on the laptop so that reduces distractions to a large extent.

  14. I know my post will have your attention. It’s me after all πŸ˜‰

    I’ve been curious about the audio book, actually. I find podcasts register with me only when I am relaxed and lying in bed doing nothing else. Not sure if I can focus on audio books that way. But hey what works for you πŸ™‚

    I LOVE the Pomodoro technique. Love!

  15. You know l actually have only the mobile on. πŸ˜ƒ l read that article you shared and it resonates with me as well. We make SM the villain but it’s actually our ineptness to handle it well. I completely agree that multitasking cuts down productivity.

    That’s the reason why l keep my wifi switched off on the phone, disable notifications and don’t “live” on FB and Twitter. We each take our little steps to retain sanity and prevent getting sucked into always being online. A good reminder.

  16. Hehe you have superpowers woman πŸ™ˆ

    But yes, making a list helps me too. I need to pay heed to the other things you mention here. Multitasking is a way of life for all of us and it is always good to be as organised as possible and cut distractions.

  17. Such a mind reader you are! πŸ˜› I have 4 tabs open and 2 devices near me. But trust me – your post had my complete attention.

    Multitasking is a way of life for me. Especially when I am doing things like cooking and cleaning – if I don’t listen to an audio-book – we would starve most days, and my house would be a hot mess (okay, this is an exaggeration, but you get what I mean).

    Having said that, when it comes to actual, important work that needs my attention – I don’t multitask – I use the pomodoro technique. Works for me, every single time. πŸ™‚

  18. Oh I can’t do that either. When I write, I write. Simple. But sometimes I used to read so many posts at once and then get overwhelmed by all the pings everywhere. So, deep breaths and everything really helps πŸ˜‰

  19. I think the urge of having to check so many things at once impacts our productivity. I realised that a while ago and made a conscious decision to cut back on multi-tasking. So glad the experiment helped πŸ™‚

  20. That means you are still a single tasker, Carol πŸ™‚ Being organised and multi-tasking are two different things. I am fairly well organised but I am a single tasker. And no, you cannot do many things at once or rather, if you do, you’d not be able to do justice to them, in my honest opinion.

  21. I agree with what you said about multitasking: it does make us feel like gods of getting things done. But it really doesn’t do much about productivity. I can only write blog posts and search for matching images. I can’t read other posts side by side, or check social media. I also can’t enjoy that one game of Freecell or Sudoku when I’m doing something important ! It just ruins the flow of work, and in fact increases the time taken to complete the tasks at hand!

  22. That’s exactly how I feel. There was a time I used to feel really bad that I could never sucessfully multitask. I kept forgetting things like I said in one of my posts. Now I have stopped trying to do that and I find myself much more at peace. I tried your experiment and did feel the difference even in the space of those few seconds.

  23. As of now, I feel I am a non-tasking person. I mean it’s as if I don’t do anything at all. I laze through the days without intention or motivation. Don’t know where that’s going to end. Lovely reading you as always, makes me want to get off my feet and do at least one thing

  24. You made some good points. I’ve been a multi-tasker for as long as I can remember. However, if there is a task that I need to concentrate on without any distraction, I do that. I single task. I do believe that when you are organized and focused you can do many things at the same time as some of them do not require an intense concentration. I am not an internet surfer or easily distracted by social media but I have five jobs and often have to wear more than one hat at a time.

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