Monday, June 15, 2015

The Lie of Multitasking

To do two things at once is to do neither.
—Publilius Syrus, Roman slave, 1st century B.C.
Multitasking is merely rapid attention shifting. You are never, ever really doing more than one thing at a time. You’re just doing them in rapidly churning microbursts so that at the end of the day you’ve made incremental progress on a whole bunch of things and not finished anything. In case you haven’t noticed, this is not an effective strategy. 

The research supports this assertion:  Earl Miller, MIT neuroscientist, says “When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”  Multitasking by all accounts is counterproductive – you think you are doing more but in actuality you are doing less. It reduces performance, it increases stress, it reduces our ability to focus, it makes us dumber and the list goes on. In other words, multitasking is actually a waste of time.

Many lawyers have seemingly actually lost the ability to focus relentlessly on one task until it is completed. This is terrible news because our brains are basically hardwired to do just one thing at a time. We are very good at one thing at a time, bad at two as the aforementioned links articulate so well. If we lose that “one thing at a time” ability we are really in a bad spot. Screwed basically. And many of us are getting screwed.

Enter mindfulness meditation.

If mindfulness does nothing else (though it does(!)), it teaches you how to focus. Focus better than you ever have or at least get back whatever focus you’ve lost to whatever personal “Facebook, Twitter, work email, Tinder, text message, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram hell” you’ve created for yourself.

Mindfulness is the complete opposite of multitasking. Mindfulness is a calm, deliberate focus on one thing - maintained for ten minutes. Every day. It is simplicity itself.

Ten minutes of mental "non-exercise" that will make you more productive, calmer and focused - ready to knock off those all those after the other!

Thanks for reading.