A friend shared with me an experience he had at a seminar. The seminar was about productivity and the myth of multitasking. They did an exercise where everyone in attendance had to write out the word “multitasking.”
But as they wrote out the word they had to write a number in with each letter of the word. When they wrote the word “m” they had to write the number “1” under “m.” Then under “u” write out the number “2.” By the end, they had written the word “multitasking” and underneath the number “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12.”
Once everyone understood what to do, they timed everyone. The average time to finish was 25 seconds. If you try this exercise on your own, you would see that it does take some effort to think through each action.
As soon as they were finished, they did the same exercise but with a twist. This time, they did each step their own way. So they wrote out the word “multitasking” first then wrote the numbers “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12.” The average finish time was 12 seconds! It took half the time to finish and less work on the brain.
Multitasking is a myth. Doing two tasks at the same time not only takes longer but harder. At the seminar, they also shared that when you are in deep concentration and then you get distracted, it can take up to 20 minutes to get back into that same level of deep concentration.
Isn’t that crazy?! I have heard some people say that they average five hours of screen time on their phone a day. How do they get anything done? Have you had the pleasure of talking with someone while they are texting at the same time? Isn’t it painful? Doesn’t it also prove that multitasking is in a way impossible?
I recently did the multitasking exercise with ten 15-year-old boys. They were amazed at out how much harder it was to multitask than to do just one task at a time.
Currently, we are all distracted and multitasking more than we should. However, as we have seen in the examples above, doing one task at a time and being in the moment can help you accomplish more.
We should try to stop multitasking and instead be fully present if we want to make the most out of our time and energy. After all, life isn’t meant to be lived at full speed, it’s meant to be savored.