The Myth of Multitasking

In her book Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg debunks the modern myth of multitasking. She writes, “Attention isn’t infinite. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time. We take in info sequentially. When you switch tasks, your brain has to run through a complex process to disengage the neurons involved in one task to activate the neurons needed for the other. The more you switch back and forth, the more time you waste and the lower your quality of work.”
 
Doh!-pamine
If it feels like I’ve just stolen all of your donuts, I don’t blame you. “Successful” multitasking feels good. It makes us happy, but not because we’re producing our best work.
 
It’s the rush resulting from a chemical cocktail of dopamine, adrenaline and other stress hormones that studies have shown your body produces when you’re doing more than one thing at a time. Unfortunately, while we’re high on our high output, we’re less likely to notice mistakes and retain information.    
 
Unitasking
Sharon offers a different sort of fix. “Rather than divide our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention. Relaxing our focus for regular intervals and pacing our sustained concentration sharpens attention and renders the mind more flexible.”
 
Tabless Thursdays
As a safe place to begin your unitasking practice, James Hamblin, M.D. prescribes Tabless Thursdays. After all, he says in the video below, “It’s not just about tabs, you know. Tabs are a metaphor for life, right? And if you can just have one tab open and be doing it well, that’s like you are fully present in the moment.”