Nothing is more precious than time, and the pace of modern life is faster than at any time in history, and it's only going to get faster. There are always more and more demands on our time and more things we are expected to deal with. Not only that, but we are also expected to be able to deal with many of these things at the same time.
Multi-tasking seems to be the norm and is expected of all of us. But is multi tasking actually the most effective way to manage your time? Can you really concentrate on, and give your full attention to more than one task at a time? Do you ultimately get more done, and done properly, if you do more than one thing at a time?
Let's look at some simple examples.
Can you effectively read and watch TV at the same time and really concentrate on both? Perhaps, if what you are reading and watching is quite lightweight, but what if it's complex? I'm sure many of us were convinced as kids, and maybe even managed to convince our parents, that we could do our homework or study with the radio or TV on. But could we really?
What about eating an apple whilst driving your car and concentrating on a conversation on the radio? I think this can be quite easily done, but if you think about it, eating an apple requires no concentration, and driving is second nature requiring only limited concentration. I think it would be a different story if you were trying to navigate your way through heavy traffic in an unfamiliar area, or driving through torrential rain or snow.
What about driving and using a mobile phone? I think the same applies as above, and using hand held mobile phones is now illegal in many countries as it is accepted that it can cause accidents. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has taken a wrong turn or got lost due to being too involved in a conversation, even on a hands free phone.
Female readers may scoff, as it's generally accepted that women are much better at multi-tasking than men. I'm sure this is true, largely due to skills and instincts learned and adapted over many thousands of years, right back to when our homes were caves. Women had to be able to raise children, cook, make clothing, grow crops, and much more. Maybe they didn't do them all at the same time, but whatever they were doing they also had to have one eye on their children and family to make sure they weren't in any danger, and that no intruders or wild beasts were nearby. In those days this was literally a matter of life and death. The main thing men had to do was go out and hunt dinosaurs and find food for the family without being eaten alive in the process.
But if you are working on more than one task at the same time, are you really giving either of them your full attention and using your time most effectively?
It has been estimated that any task may take up to 10 times longer to complete if you keep leaving and coming back to it. This is because you are rarely able to immediately pick up exactly where you left off. You'll usually have to spend time familiarising yourself with the material again, which will mean rereading and possibly even redoing work you've already done.
Isn't that similar to what we do when we try to do more than one thing at a time? Most of us will find that throughout the course of a working day we have a constant flow of interruptions from phones, email, co workers, etc to contend with. We are already being distracted from our work and having our productivity reduced. Won't trying to do too many things at once make it even worse?
Working on a single task without interruption or distraction until it is finished will certainly allow you to complete the task much more quickly and efficiently.
If you're working on a big project, this won't always be possible, and working on the same thing for hours on end without a break can be counterproductive. In these cases, breaking things down into manageable chunks and working on each section until completed, then taking a break, or going on to something different, can help to keep you more mentally alert and efficient.
Effective time management is one of the most important of all skills if you are serious about success and achievement. If you try to juggle multiple tasks at the same time it's unlikely you will do any of them effectively or quickly. You will be much more effective and productive by developing your ability to focus on the task at hand and your powers of concentration.
'If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.' - Anonymous