Is Single Tasking the New Multitasking?

My middle name was multitasking.

I’ve always considered myself to be “good” at multitasking.  I am usually able to get a few things done simultaneously, and get them done pretty well.  Sure, it may take a little bit longer, but I was getting multiple things done at once, so that made up for the time.  I think that when you become a parent, developing the skill of multitasking is a matter of survival….but is it really hurting us more than it helps?

The other day, I came across THIS POST over at Lifehacker about starting your day with Focus.  It was an interesting article, but what really caught my eye was the case the author Leo Babauta made for “single tasking.”  I saw that there was a link to another article about single tasking in the side bar, so I clicked on it for more info.  THIS POST talked more about this idea of single tasking, and how it makes a lot more since in our lives and will help to reduce our stress level, along with other great effects.  Both of the articles got me thinking…would single tasking be more effective?

Naturally, I decided to play with the idea a little bit over the last few days.  I’ve been trying really hard to focus on one task at a time, and working only on that task.  The reality is, sometimes it’s hard.  I get distracted by the internet just as much as the next guy (curse you Facebook!), and it’s hard to ignore your four year old as they tell you a story because you have to focus on the one task you’re doing.  I wasn’t really surprised that single tasking had it’s challenges.

What did surprise me is how effective it was when I actually was able to do it.  I got a lot more done when I shut my browser window, and tuned everything else out (read: waited for my girls to go to bed).  Normally, I would start something, wander away from it for five and start something new, then go back…you get the picture.  When I actually sat down and focused on getting one task done – magic.  The task was done, plus I felt that I did a better job on the task.  A bonus: a lot of the tasks I did when I was single tasking seemed easier to do than they would have been if I was doing more than one thing at a time.

What’s the moral?  Being good at multitasking is useful, but not all the time.  Both multitasking and single tasking have their place in my day to day routine.  However, just like multitasking, single tasking requires you to “get better at it” before it really hits it’s stride.  My plan for the future: use both, but work on  my single tasking skills and try to use single tasking more in my life.

Do you multitask?  Do you think that single tasking would be more helpful for you?  Let’s talk in the comments below.

Image: healingdream /

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3 Responses to Is Single Tasking the New Multitasking?

  1. HappyLilGrahamCracker says:

    I am constantly multitasking… I spend my day working on homework while listening to the radio, texting my boyfriend who is often away on business, fetching him phone numbers he needs when he doesn’t have internet access where he’s at, while talking to my mom about what’s going on in her life, and trying to calm my dog down when he wants something. It seems a lot of times that so much hits all at once, and I spend my day weaving between tasks, braiding them together, and still trying to have everything done at the end of the day. Even when I am working on just one thing, it seems I’m still checking facebook and my phone every few minutes to see what is happening.
    I definitely think single tasking would help me out. I’ve found when I make a to do list, then I’m more likely to single task, but when I don’t, I’m more likely to heap a whole pile of a lot of assignments on my plate at once. It helps when I have time to work after my family, my dog, and my boyfriend goes to bed, because I can focus on the task at hand. Problem is, usually the task I *want* to do at that time (like scrapping) isn’t the task I *should* be doing (homework).

  2. Flowerscrap says:

    I am a mother of 4 with the oldest in Kindergarten so multi-tasking is a HUGE part of my life – i hardly ever do just one thing at a time….maybe sleep…but I dream scrapbooking so maybe not…On the other hand I have found that when i can sit quietly and focus on a kit I’m designing – that it gets done soo much faster and that is so much more fulfilling – I totally agree with you – some things can be multitasked ( listening to my kids ceaseless chatter and making dinner) and somethings that just should not be. LOL – this is going to take serious practice and some putting of less important things on the back burner. Thanks for this great post!

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