Multi-tasking, in many ways, is over-rated. Engaging in a second task while your computer is running a large query definitely makes sense. But there are many scenarios where multi-tasking leads to poor quality work or just less productive output.
Whenever I’m behind a car that is driving dangerously below the speed limit on the freeway, it’s always been an oblivious driver on a cell phone. How annoying is watching a person answer email during an important presentation? I just read an article that claimed people actually answered incoming text during sex.
If I’m really interested in a football game, you can bet that I’ll shut down my laptop. If I’m having a serious conversation with my wife, I’m not going to concurrently check my social networking sites on my iPhone . We know intuitively that to really focus, we need to be single-tasking. That’s when we are really productive, producing work with quality and depth.
I actually designate “Single-Task Days” for myself. I list out what I want to accomplish for that day, then prioritize each task. If two tasks are about equal in importance, I give higher priority to the task that I’m the LEAST excited to do. My reasoning is that I will always find ways to do tasks that I enjoy.
During these days, I really try not to let other things distract me from my list. These are some of my favorite days, when I let myself really focus on singular tasks. It’s during these days that I sometimes feel myself in a zone, when my tasks seem so much clearer and answers come easier. Such days can result in a great sense of accomplishment and progress — that is, until you are back to multi-tasking the next day.