Let’s get it going, and there I go with hitting the blunt buzzer. Trigger warning: You will not like what you read. But I’ll say it anyway, because I’m nice like that (note my atrocious sarcasm).
The truth about multi-tasking is that it is a blatant lie. Let the studies reign, let the beginnings begin, let the scientists lose their good strands of hair, but the truth shall triumph, and that is that multi-tasking isn’t really a thing. Rather it is one of those things that you knew that it was an absolute wrong thing to do, but you do it anyway, and end up convincing yourself that it is indeed true. To me it is just an illusion, that I wish was true. But some things are too good to be true.
Truthfully, here I am not a layman (or a laywoman? Feminist much?), I have got studies to back it up, and my horrible experience with it. The psychologists have done an extensive research in this field, and have come up with contradictory theories, however the one which seems to be rigid and highly-agreed upon is that multi-tasking is actually scientifically, soulfully, spiritually and naturally not possible. And I deliberately did not use the word ‘impossible’ because some saint who would be reading this would immediately pounce to argue that nothing in this world is impossible, because the word impossible itself says ‘I’m possible’. And I believe in that, because in a unicorn world, opinions are highly appreciated and accepted, we just don’t live upon it. Before I go off the loop, let me get back.
So what’s really multi-tasking?
Multi-tasking refers to the act by which you perform multiple tasks at a time, whether it be chatting with your friend while studying, or texting your boss while working (who does that? I did), or scrolling through your social network while you work. And some of us have this habit of hearing something while working/writing. I personally did that because I didn’t want to let my mind wander, as ironic as that sounds. So everyday before I begin writing, I go to my favorite space on the internet – YouTube, and click on the Arabic Nasheed (Islamic Songs)/Songs playlist. Arabic because I didn’t understand the lyrics, and in that way I wouldn’t contemplate upon the beautiful words that the artist sings. And why did I listen when I didn’t want to know? Because I had this illusion that the beats (although Nasheeds hardly have any) would keep my mind on track and make me work ferociously fast.
Guess what? It worked! But not for the reasons you think. I was quite a nincompoop to have understood this only later. I thought it was the background tune that made me work faster, but absolutely false. Rather I ended up focusing at times on the Arabic words, and try to practice my mastery in deciphering the incoherent words. And even if the artist was merely humming, I would be flabbergasted by how a human throat could hum so well, and have a voice as such. Nevertheless, the trains of the world may stop running but not the one within.
The reason as to why I worked faster was that when I began to work, the inception stage was backed with an ample amount of energy. I loved working, I loved the sense of productivity, and I loved the fact that I woke up in an early morning to do something for the world. But sometimes love is short-lived, just like in any other relationship, it takes efforts to keep the spark alive. The tune had been running in the background both at the beginning and forty five minutes later too, but after forty five minutes of pressing the keys till they bled, I didn’t like doing it anymore. If I could write 100 words in 2-3 minutes at the beginning, I’d take half an hour to complete a 400 word write-up after forty five minutes have passed by (I write multiple articles in one go, so that gives an idea). In other words, the productivity declined in an unprecedented rate. Even multi-tasking didn’t work.
To keep the spark alive, it takes two things: no distractions and no constant working. You need to take a short break every once in a while to revive your energy for greater productivity. If you can nap, then that works great too, but there are some of us who would rather hibernate than nap. Because some of our minds have got the definitions totally wrong, you see.
After learning my lesson, I stopped playing the playlist. I typed to the sound of my keys sinking, and to the pigeons rattling in the split air conditioner, which was very creepy. I had to take a 5 minutes break after every 15 minutes, and eventually took 5 minutes break once in half an hour.
That is my story, and there are others who text while studying, and working. Let me tell you my friend, that is one easy way to go downhill, so really, stop convincing yourself that you’d score great anyway with that habit on. By not doing it, you’ll do better than that, and life is all about being better.
I’m going to be quite an American, and pull out stats and conclusions from the research undertaken by the big brains of the earth that prove that multi-tasking is impossible, rather switch-tasking is (dear saint, these are not my words): ”so-called multitasking is neither effective nor efficient. These findings have demonstrated that when you shift focus from one task to another, that transition is neither fast nor smooth. Instead, there is a lag time during which your brain must yank itself from the initial task and then glom onto the new task. This shift, though it feels instantaneous, takes time. In fact, up to 40 percent more time than single tasking – especially for complex tasks”. (Source: American Psychological Association, Sub-source: Psychology today).
Multi-tasking is possible when you know to do one task very well, that is without thinking at all, and the other is something that you haven’t got a hang of yet, or when the other activity is of the same nature as former too. For example, walking while listening to music, or driving while listening to music, or even in my very own example, I could write a few sample articles while listening to people talk and while conversing because I have written the same one about a hundred times.
With all that said, I’d grant you leave after offering a few ways to increase your productivity and be efficient workers rather than excellent multi-taskers (which is a myth, just saying).
- When you work or study, put your phone on the airplane mode, or keep it somewhere where you can’t see it for the next few hours.
- If your work is on the computer, close all the other unnecessary tabs that are opened up on your browser. Example: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or whatever. (I rhyme too!)
- Split your tasks into how many ever small tasks that you think is possible for you to work on. Split your hour of work into two or four, however you feel comfortable. Take breaks for a few minutes while you work.
- Switch off the notifications. If you can’t afford to put your phone on the airplane mode, then switch off the notifications, as they help a tonne to keep you focused.
- Stay positive. Before you do anything, do not cuss the task. Rather, you need to believe that you are truly going to make a change and that you are exactly where you need to be.
- Have an ambiance that gives hope. Whether you are that sticky note person, or scented candle one, decorate your surroundings with what you like.
- If you work from home, then avoid working on bed when you are prone to sleep. Working on bed is great when you are sick or if you have just woken up from a good sleep, but otherwise, it is a total no-no.
And that is a wrap! And dear multi-taskers, I’m sorry to have busted your bubble, but that is the truth. You are a switch-tasker. It is quite alright if you are still convinced that you are excellent in multi-tasking, who knows God must have Blessed you with such an ability that many do not have?
Have a good day, and stop fooling yourself if you are convincing that texting your friend while studying is making you score better or anything of the sort! Keep smiling, being kind and stay positive!