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Tag Archives: multitasking

Couple of good articles on the power of focus, the nature of motivation, and the importance of regular breaks:

Stop Being So Damn Productive

With mental tasks, productivity doesn’t increase linearly with time worked. Every hour spent working hard is a tax on the next hour you want to spend working hard. And so on until you can spend hours, even days, working without achieving.

Remember the quote “You speak a lot, but you don’t say much”? Same goes for working a lot.

The Trick to Accomplishing More by Doing Less

Multitasking all day is not as productive as working in 90 minute stretches with 15-20 minute breaks (or even a nap) and a real lunch break.

How Rewards Can Make You Hate Something You Love

“Many people—including us—have argued that doing what you love and getting paid for it is the holy grail of life achievements, but in reality we tend to get discouraged when presented with the possibility that we’re only doing something for the money.”

I would ascribe a different interpretation to the observed phenomenon: that, when getting paid to do something, you have to do it.  You have to do it to a schedule, and you have to do it to somebody else’s satisfaction.  When the task is no longer enjoyable, you have to keep doing it to completion.  Whereas, when you do something purely for enjoyment, you only do it for as long as it is enjoyable to you.

Applications to motivation and procrastination.

-Johnny 0.


Multitasking has been debunked as a productivity tool.  This year I’ve seen reports from several studies showing that people who multitask the most:

  • are the worst at it,
  • have the shortest attention spans,
  • get the least done,
  • are the least able to think creatively (ie. solve complex problems), etc.

Comparing my academic/professional performance now and twenty years ago, I could credibly write an article entitled “Multitasking ruined my life.”

Here’s a recent article with some useful advice: A Case For Singletasking (LifeHacker)

Incidentally, the LifeHacker website is a recent find for me, and I’m liking it!  Daily hacks for smarter living.  Just don’t browse the site while on a conference call, paying your gas bill and writing a status report.

Happy singletasking,

-Johnny 0.

Crackberry. Internet addiction. Email junky. Twit. Our choice of words reveals that we already knew the truth. Still, when I read this article, I had to turn around and check for a hidden camera.  I felt like it had been written about me.

New York Times – This is your brain on computers

Multitasking is addictive, it kills creativity and the ability to focus. Continuously checking the cellphone, email, Facebook and news feeds maintains a steady train of dopamine squirts to the brain.  When we don’t have access to our stimulants, we get cranky.  When we do, we work, play or socialize in a haze of distraction and reduced brain function.  And the effects persist even after logging off.

Clifford Nass, Stanford: “…we’ve got a large and growing group of people who think the slightest hint that something interesting might be going on is like catnip. They can’t ignore it.”

This is me.  I can work for about 30 seconds before the urge hits to check the inbox.  I respond to trivial emails rather than focus on important and urgent work tasks.  I’m on and off social networking sites all day long.  I try to work on two or three or five things at once, because one task is just not exciting enough.  No wonder it takes me hours to finish anything!

“Procrastination” alone doesn’t explain my dysfunctional work habits.  I have to add multitasking (or hypertasking) addiction to the list.

A more dire diagnosis is good news if it’s more accurate.  At least now I can start doing something about it.

Is This You?

While writing this blog post, 9:00am rolled around and I had to pause to listen to the hourly news.  Several times during the 3-minute newscast, I caught myself tabbing through my open windows or loading up new web pages.  It took a conscious effort to just listen to the radio for 3 minutes without splitting my attention with something else!  Oh yeah, I got it bad.

It made me realize that I do a lot of unimportant things in a day, but I don’t feel like I’m wasting time because I’m “working at the same time.”  Except I have to admit, when I’m self-distracting like that I’m working a lot slower and a lot dumber.  I am wasting time.

What am I going to do about this?  Well I don’t imagine it’s going to be easy.  But the idea isn’t to give up email or other entertainments, just to compartmentalize these activities.  One thing at a time.  I think I’ll go back to closing the browsers and email apps while I’m supposed to be working.  I’ll try to focus on one task at a time, for a minimum length of time.  20 minutes?  Maybe I need to start with 3.

This journey to re-discover good work habits is going to be longer than I’d though.  Now at least I’m headed in the right direction.

-Johnny 0.