Multitasking versus Focus

By on February 17th, 2016 in Human Impacts, Societal Impact, Topics

Guest Blog from: Chris Fallon

“What do you want to watch on TV?”
“I don’t know. Just put on whatever.”
You fire up the television. The latest episode of said show begins. No sooner than the theme music starts, you take out your phone. For the next half hour you sit looking at your phone, checking back in with the program on TV every once in a while.  

Sound familiar?

We have become masters of multitasking. Or, at least, we crave the constant distraction of multitasking.

The ability to juggle tasks is often esteemed in our society. “Sara is a good multitasker, she can deal with a lot on her plate.” It seems like an ideal trait for an employee: The ability to effortlessly move from task to task. Technology is seemingly training us for this ability as it demands and divides our attention.

The problem is that multitasking generally produces worse results for a given task. Psychology Today has a study summary that looks at how multitasking decreases efficiency. Additionally studies exist showing that technology-based multitasking can harm memory retention and possibly even change brain structure. According to one study out of Wilfrid Laurier University:

“[T]hose who preferred to task-switch had more distracting technologies available and were more likely to be off-task than others. Also, those who accessed Facebook had lower GPAs than those who avoided it.”  

I’ve long held a theory that true masters of any field are single-minded. Famed psychologist Martin Seligman calls it being in a state of “flow” which he describes as: “Being one with the music, time stopping, and the loss of self-consciousness during an absorbing activity.” Time and time again I see this state of flow mentioned, if not by name, by the best-of-the-best in their field.

Concentrate; put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket...”
Andrew Carnegie

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time…
Charles Dickens

My ability to concentrate and work toward that goal has been my greatest asset.
Jack Nicklaus

Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.
John D. Rockefeller

That doesn’t sound much like our iPad to iPhone to TV, back to iPad daily routine, does it?

I am of the opinion that the less we crave distraction, the less we mindlessly vacillate between our tech devices. The less we spread ourselves thin, the better. Concentrate on one task at a time and see if you don’t reap the rewards.

Are you happier or more productive now with the multitasking that technology encourages, or do you prefer a single task focus?

Chris Fallon lives in Raleigh, NC, U.S.A., and is the marketing director for axcontrol.com.