Multi-tasking Will Kill You

multi-tasking-demotivational-poster-1208739077

I owe you an apology. If I’ve spoken on the phone with you at any point in the past four or five years then there’s a decent chance (75%) that I was playing chess online at the same time. I’m sort of embarrassed if you are reading this. But I wanted to come clean. Maybe by confessing I’ll stop doing this bad behavior.

There’s two aspects of that last sentence. “Bad behavior” – is it really? And “by confessing I’ll stop”. I don’t know if I’ll really stop. It’s an addiction. I can’t help myself. If I even hear the sound of my phone ringing I reach for the mouse and start clicking on the chessboard after a game starts up.

First off, is it bad behavior?

There’s the myth primarily in the United States that it’s of value to be a great multi-tasker. Society thinks you’re smarter, more productive, better able to juggle problematic tasks mixed with plain tasks. People say it in their job interviews: “I am a great multi-tasker.” It brings up images of a great juggler. Someone who won’t drop the ball no matter how many you throw at him.

A few years ago I was riding in a car with the state senate minority leader of Connecticut. We were on our way to a speech he was going to give. He had the text of the speech up on the steering wheel and while he was driving he kept scratching out lines, making additions, reading from a Marcus Aurelius book to quote from and occasionally asking me if he should slow down the car for a traffic light.

Did he get into an accident? No. But he didn’t get re-elected for the first time in about ten years. Finally he dropped a ball. Too many were thrown at him.

All of these are variations on the classic case of modern day multi-tasking –driving a car while talking on the phone. The primal multi-task in the new world order. And guess what? We can’t do it. Nobody can. Various studies (this seems euphemistic for bullshit so I’ll put link) have shown that cellphone drivers drive at about the same level (measured by accidents) as drunk drivers. People driving over the legal limit of alcohol in their system.

I already knew the above fact. Chess has a very statistics-based ranking system. When I’m playing chess while talking on the phone, not only am I barely able to focus on the phone conversation but my chess rank goes down by about three standard deviations. In other words, the non-phone version of me can beat the phone version of me 95% of the time. That’s a big jump down.  And this is a result of doing just two tasks that I’ve done for tens of thousands of hours since I was a kid.

Think of all the times in the day you multi-task. Like reading an email while your kids (or lover, even worse) is talking to you. (As an aside, I like the word “lover”. It implies the full range from Valentine’s Day commercial sweetness to sex , without being stuck at any one point on that spectrum).

Can I get rid of the chess/phone addiction. This is the “confessing and I’ll stop” aspect. It turns out that keeping a secret is bad for our health. A quick example. Take a group of HIV gay people. The ones who are open about their sexuality tend to live longer then the ones who keep it a secret. There are lots of examples where revealing a secret (even by writing it down on a piece of paper and then ripping it up before anyone sees it) has health benefits. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof.

So now my secret is out. I’ll feel better. I’ll have better health. I’ll live longer. And I’ll probably be smarter. Because everyone will now see me as 100% more focused when I’m on the phone. And I’ll probably be better at chess.

(Bogart in Casablanca couldn’t focus on his game even though he was a chess addict. Too much love and intrigue at “Rick’s”)

But now be honest with yourself. How many times when you are reading a book where you have to go back and re-read the page because you were thinking of something else? This is multi-tasking also. Right now, for instance, I’m in the middle of a deal and something happened yesterday that could put the deal in jeopardy. I have no control over it. It was an appraisal on some real estate. So it’s out of my hands and we’ll just see. I could spend the morning thinking about it. Or I could say, “this thought is useless to me” and focus on whatever task is in front of me.

Most of the time I would “multi-task” – regret the decision that got me into that deal, worry about the future of the deal, think about the ramifications of the deal, and then try to pay attention to Claudia over breakfast. And here’s what the outcomes would be: Absolutely no change on the status of the deal. And of course no change on the past (it’s done). And nothing in the future would change. I have no control over it. I would be less healthy because of stress. And I would devote less attention to Claudia. Who might then resent it. Which would cause me other future problems. Multi-tasking can ruin your life. Even “multi-thinking” can ruin your life.

Oh, and I just remembered the one time it did ruin a life. I was 18 and driving. I had just had a chess lesson where I had beaten my instructor twice in a row and I was very proud. I was imagining the game in my head. I ran straight thru a stop sign atg 60 miles per hour. Hit a station wagon with an old guy in it. Four fences (one for each corner) got destroyed in the result. The older guy broke his leg. And I went through my front window while my dad’s car got completely wrecked. Multi-tasking.

So what should we do?

A)     Don’t multi-task obvious disparate activities: driving and cell phone use. Reading an email and listening to your kids (you will get both activities done faster and more pleasurably if you do one at a time). Texting and walking. Exercise and watching TV (it results in less exercise benefits than just being focused on your body while exercising). Here’s a great one: talking to someone else while checking out in a store. The person working in the store probably wouldn’t mind you saying a sincere “Thank You”. Instead, he’s thinking, “man, this jerk probably never gets off his phone.”

B)      Don’t time travel. Regretting the past or worrying about the future is AUTOMATIC bad multi-tasking. It means you’re not focused on right now.   Your brain is somewhere else and then by definition less productive right now. It’s all filled up with no extra space.

How to avoid time travel?

  1. Catch yourself doing it.
  2. Remind yourself these are “not useful thoughts”
  3. Breathe in and feel the air against your nostrils. This puts you immediately in the present.
  4. Think of all the sounds you can hear right now. This also puts you in the immediate present. Your brain, which is your time travel machine, is begging you not to do this. It keeps yelling, “HEY OVER THERE! I’M STUCK IN THE FUTURE! COME GET ME!” But it’s a trap. Don’t listen to it.
  5. Acknowledge what you should be focused on at this present moment. If you have nothing in front of you maybe just enjoy that you have no tasks right now. It’s a great pleasure to be a zero-tasker. I want to be a zero-tasker more and more in my life right now.
  6. “But”, you might say, “I really do have to worry about X and Y!” Ok, acknowledge you feel the need RIGHT NOW to worry. That doesn’t mean you HAVE to worry. It’s just a feeling that you have right now. How does it feel in your body right now. Watch it. Feel it. Let it get bored and disappear.

C)      Don’t keep secrets. A secret is a multi-task. You have to always be reminding yourself, “I can’t say this” while dealing with the people around you. What a burden. Remember: you lose 95% of your abilities when you multi-task. Imagine each secret you keep as another 95% loss of what you can potentially be. Pretty soon you are using none of your potential. And your mind is all the time keeping secrets and time traveling. You’re never here anymore. You’re gone. Bad BRAIN! We hardly ever got a chance to know you.

When you sip a coffee, don’t read the newspaper. Coffee tastes good and the newspaper always lies and you won’t be able to read through the lies. You’ll probably miss both those points if you multi-task it. Just taste the coffee. Enjoy it. By the way, I’m like Doctor Science today. Holding a warm cup of coffee actually makes you feel happier, makes you more generous, and makes you judge others more favorably. Why would you want to lose those benefits by multi-tasking?

Here’s the great thing: Everyone around you right now is multi-tasking. Everyone.

You just have to look around in the street. Everyone is walking around and talking on their phone or texting while walking. As a culture, we’ve not only become addicted to multi-tasking, we’ve put it on a pedestal and started to worship it. How come? So as to excuse our bad behavior and turn it into a hero. The hero of our culture can juggle 20 tasks at the same time and still make a million dollars and have great sex every day.

The reality is, if you DON’T multi-task then you are the only one. You then become 20 times more productive than the ones who do multi-task. Nobody will be able to compete with you. You will be in a league all by yourself.

People ask me: how do you get so much done? I’m not bragging because I just admitted that I multi-task in the first paragraph. But I’m actively trying not to. And the more I single-task, the more productive I am. Your brain is hypnotizing you into thinking you are a hero when you multi-task. Why does the brain do that? Because “he” wants more things to do. He doesn’t want to be out of a job. He wants you to use him as much as possible. Bad BRAIN!

(hero tattoo)

The real hero is the one who knows how to single task. To relieve the burdens of the past and the worries of the future. To shed the secrets that keep churning through the mind. To give up the need for constant multi-stimuli in order to feed the ever-hungrier brain.

The true hero is the one who can focus on the single task that is in front of him. And the even more courageous hero is the one who knows how to zero task. I hope I can do that one day. Even for a second. I’m going to try today. Maybe  while holding a warm cup of coffee.

 

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  • https://www.coldhardcode.com/ Jay Shirley

    I was just having this discussion, and I think it’s a slight perception issue. People see people who accomplish a lot and go, “Wow! You must multi-task”. What my friend and I have figured out is it’s the ability to switch contexts very quickly.

    I am focused on a task at hand. Something comes up and I see it, but only enough to decide where in the priority queue is it. When it gets bubbled to the top, I context switch and tackle that task. But only that task. I wait until I’m able to break away.

    In the discussion we realized that we’re both talking about the way that pre-emptive multitasking kernels work, and we felt like complete dorks, but hey, it works!

    I’m able to quickly respond to requests and needs, but any task at hand is given the attention it needs until I’m able to swap away.

    I’m still entirely way too guilty of my brain wandering off though. I can’t read more than 3 pages without having to go back and read one because I drifted :)

  • http://thesoundofonehandtyping.wordpress.com/ John Holton

    Your advice about not time traveling was so good, I printed it out and put it on my bulletin board. I travel through time (backward, mostly) more than Doctor Who. Thanks for this.

  • http://PrimordialSlack.com/ Joan Of Argghh!

    Zero-tasking IS The Slack. It’s divine. It’s the secret worth finding out.

    Thanks for this. Good stuff.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I like that. “The Slack”. Reminds me of the movie “slackers”

  • PlinytheElder

    Zero task is Zen.

  • Henrique Estrêla

    Thank you. I just read that post because I focused on the single task that is in front of me.

    • Henrique Estrêla

       James,
      When I read the post I found links around but do not click on. I clicked on the links about 4 hours later.
      Do you consider posts with links to click on multi-task
      or single-task post?
      Appreciated your time and thank you for share your knowledge.

  • http://twitter.com/priteshdesai Pritesh Desai

    My brain is  a huge time traveller… great point there, will try to keep it in the present.

  • http://twitter.com/RKahendi Rose Kahendi

    :) I’ve been saying this for years now. But not as eloquently or in as exhaustive a manner. Nice piece!

  • Valerie

    James, Spot on for multi-tasking as inefficient use of time, which at times is tantamount to time travel. Love it.

    A comment (read: desperate plea): how do you get rid of secrets that won’t go away, though you’ve told them? They’re no longer technically secrets, since they’re out of the bag… yet their dander has plagued me for years. The pruritus is chronic but at times, flares into anaphylaxis in my soul. Is there a cure for secrets like this? Sure, they require backward time travel, but if you’re not thinking of them, it doesn’t mean they’re gone. They’ve just been filed into a dank recess of your mind, only to gnaw away at your subconscious. Do you know of a way to purge them forever?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Just the telling of them has significant benefit. But now you’ve moved them from “secret in the present” to “regret in the past”. So now its just bring it back to the present. Dont dwell on the past but acknowledge that RIGHT NOW you feel bad about these things. That simple acknowledgement to yourself will make the pain and regret wither over time, even if the feeling is still strongly there. 

      Just remembering that you can’t change the past but admitting that you feel bad right now is all you need. 

  • http://twitter.com/SEIZMICdesign Michael Powers

    Genius.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=582744493 Paul Schottland

    Incredible post, and the photos are an excellent pairing.  The regret on things gone by is also wasted multi-tasking, great point and thanks!  One interesting observation which I think you missed is the positive correlation between intellectual difficulty of task and damage done by focusing on 2 things at once.  Also recovery time to return to intellectual flow is very significant, and often overlooked – 
    http://paulscho36.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/focus-flow-and-how-much-time-context-switching-requires-to-recover/

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s a very good point, Paul. Particularly the recovery time, which is such a needless waste of energy. 

  • Nick

    I completely, completely agree with this. I work in consulting, which tends to view multi-tasking as the ultimate skill, but recently I’ve become convinced it’s just a means to producing greater quantities of shitty work.

    For me, the question here is this: do you want to be good at your work, or do you want to appear to be good at your work? Multi-tasking allows you to present the impression of activity, but this isn’t the same thing as producing good work. The latter requires you to actually focus on something.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, its funny: consulting values multi-tasking so much and yet, it completely depletes the creativity of a company and so often produces inadequate results. Very good point about “being good” versus appearing to be good. 

  • http://twitter.com/marieaub Marie Aubrechtova

    Great post James. I definitely agree, the key is to be in the present and stop multi-tasking. I’ve no idea why people look for multi-tasking in almost every job spec. It’s hard not to multi-task when you’ve got work, personal and Facebook emails popping up on your screen and phone messages going off. But the key is to switch it all off and get on with one task at a time. I’m like I keep trying but sometimes failing….now I’m going to check my Facebook :-)

    • Valerie

      Excellent point. I turned off my phone one day at work. I felt like an addict – all day, I wanted to run and check texts, emails. Then, I settled into a kind of flow. Everything went better and I actually enjoyed each interaction much more. I *felt* healthier. Then I turned the stupid thing back on and felt this relief, oh look, people love me – so many messages. And I was back on the grid.

      Another time, I turned off my phone on Saturday. It was the best weekend I had in months. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll try that experiment again today ;)

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        I’ve been trying these past few days to turn it off and its definitely been interesting having nothing to look at while everyone is checking their phones, etc. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’re right, Marie. It is really hard. I often go through “the loop” of checking all social media. Trying to lessen the loop every day but its a challenge. 

  • David G.

    While I must agree with pretty much everything you’ve just said, there’s one thing I think you should reconsider. You argue that we souldn’t keep secrets but think about it just for a second. If we said every single thought we have at any given time in our heads, our society would collapse. 

    Imagine if one of your friends tells your wife in front of you that she’s hot and wants to have sex with her. Or imagine yourself telling a woman from the street that yes, you’re looking her boobs because their are big. Or telling your boss that he’s a moron. 

    We all have secret emotions and we keep them to ourselves or share them with someone we trust. It’s clear that there are some things that must remain secret.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I’m not in favor of so-called “radical honesty”. Note that i mention even writing a secret down and burning it has the same effect. The first rule is “do no harm”.

    • RagTagRebel

      “Or imagine yourself telling a woman from the street that yes, you’re looking her boobs because their are big”

      – If she asks what you’re looking at, then just tell her the truth. If she doesn’t ask, don’t tell. Don’t lie, but don’t reveal everything either. And who knows, she might appreciate that you find sexually attractive, as many women out there are insecure about their looks and like feeling wanted.

  • http://twitter.com/amazingkisumu Amazing Kisumu

    Amazing read, been thinking all along that those who multitask are the geniuses, all along av been wrong. I better retain the 95% of ma brain but not develop bad brain! Thanks for the insight.

  • http://twitter.com/rokensa Rodolfo Salazar

    Great thoughts, I have shared them with my family and will share them in my conferences about Connected Lieadership – thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts 

  • http://twitter.com/JerryBerggren Jerry Berggren

    I was multi-tasking while I read this, so only about 5% registered.

  • kamalravikant

    Great, practical, and useful.  Thank you, James.  Such good lines in here.  

    • kamalravikant

      And very timely as well.  I’ve been thinking about focus, how to accomplish all the different things in front of me, but in a way that’s healthy and nourishing.  Simple, beautiful solution.  Thank you.  And zero tasking, ah, Zen.

  • http://www.stocksage.net Robert Sinn

    Have you tried 4-tabling poker while playing 3-minute on ICC and acting like you are listening to someone on the phone?

  • Tscarborough

    I was completely focused on the article until you put in the photo of the smoking hot tattoo.  Brain went straight into multi-tasking. Took awhile until I thought “not useful”.
    Am really thankful to have found your writing.  Am finding myself doing the loop though, reading your posts and comments.  Useful. (I think!)You are on an amazing roll, please keep it up.

  • http://mefrain.blogspot.com/ Efrain

    Zero task huh. I sometimes open the door and let my dog go on his own. I just watch him and he just aimlessly walks through the street. I wish I could do that. Just aimlessly walk one day. See where I end up.

  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

    Nice post. 
    I think moms, especially, learn to multi-task out of necessity – it’s very difficult to “un-learn.”

  • digiogi

    Great post, James. There’s one crucial reason why multi-tasking doesn’t work that you don’t mention; the brain’s inability to switch ‘modes’ quickly and efficiently, which means you should focus on a single type of activity for at least a couple of hours at a time. People that are trying to be creative one minute, then a manager the next, before immediately switching into financial admin amp up their stress levels and are equally crap at all these micro-activities.

    I wrote about this earlier this year, here: http://digiogi.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/real-entrepreneurs-dont-multitask/

  • http://jameshamlett.com/ James Hamlett

    It is said that a jack of all trades masters nothing. At some point we are going to have put some laser beam concentration into practice.  Whenever my focus is divided into several areas the outcome tends to be scattered to say the least.  Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and put as much focus as we can into one thing at a time.  That is when our productivity increases.

  • James

    Thank you for cheering me up after a downer morning! 

  • Dave

    amazing!

  • sarfarosh

    …as I was reading comments on this post, my mind added your procrastination related post with thins one.
    and i seem to get a altogether different view on same topics that you mention. I thought, may be that we tend to do multitask/procrastate when we are not willing to take up that activity …. may be talking on phone is not so important to you in real sense, so you start doing something else. Conversely if you are doing something you ‘love’  you tend to concentrate on that.

    Also, I totally agree with you that ‘multitasking is cool’ mindset is dumb. but unfortunately it has became mindset of society. 

  • Lori

    as ron swanson says, don’t half-ass two things. whole-ass one thing.

  • Daniela

    I totally agree with speaking about your problems or our secrets ….i think is a therapy and a relieve on our brains….
    my mothers born and raise in south america has brought this up in our conversations.
    she asked…..why are the people here in america always depressed, why all these psychological problems, anxieties, different personalities, anger issues…….why are they afraid to talk 

    maybe we have it all bottle up and it has to come up somehow ..somewhere…someday

    why are we more happy in south america….yes we are poor ….but we always talking and sharing everything about ourselves and our problems…..at the end of the day we are happy, we socialized more and are more gregarious….also friendship has a different meaning …….

    not in vain NORTH AMERICA is called the lonely nation……

  • daniela
  • Topkat181

    Jay Shirley,
    I just cut and pasted your comment onto word, printed out, 
    signed it and left copy on my boss’s desk.
    Thank you friend, best wishes!
     

  • Daveafx
  • Shaw

    Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:34

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s really funny. I have that exact quote all teed up for a newsletter going out this morning. 

      • Verry

        Do what you can for today….tomorrow will come with its own difficulties. Have a good work, good rest, good pray, and good play. Praise the Lord.

      • http://mefrain.blogspot.com/ Efrain

        I just signed up for the Insider’s List. Is there a way we can get the newsletters we missed? D: 

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Yes, I’ll provide links to all the back newsletters on the next newsletter. Thanks. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817163055 Subramanian Ganapathy

    You probably might have heard a lot of this. But thank you for your blogs and posts, I am going through the hardest part of my life by my own modest standards, you blog is really helping lift my spirits and focus better.

    Thank you!!!!!

  • http://Kiwimotorart.blogspot.com/ B Young

    I’ve often wondered about the guys who are listening to music on headphones while working at their workstations. Would you call that multi tasking? THEY say they need the background music. Personally I can’t do it, I find myself listening to the music and not doing the work. I think they’re talking BS.

    • http://twitter.com/jhowardconsult James Howard

      Ehh depends on the work. I’m inclined to agree about work that isn’t purely mechanical and requires a lot of mental processes that music might be disruptive to some (especially in headphones versus speaker). Ever do yard work or work on your car while listening to music? It usually helps me get through those tasks.

  • RagTagRebel

    The best way I get over multi tasking and actually get things done (when i remember to do it) is to be really clear with myself with what I really want to do or accomplish at any given time. The helps me focus on the one most urgent thing to get done. 

  • J.K. Baltzersen

    Great points, Mr. Altucher.

    Just a reflection on thinking about the past and future. There are times when this is apprioriate, but we do spend too much time on this.

  • samcarmx

    Couldn’t agree more. I hate cell phones and smart phones too. It’s sickening the way people live on them. They will interrupt anything and everything to answer the damn things. Why can’t you just not answer the bloody phone–especially when you’re in the middle of talking to someone. It’s incredibly rude and disrespectful. 

    • Valerie

      I am discovering a far more insidious problem, which is my inability to just shut off the phone. It’s not just about not answering the phone, it’s the incessant need to communicate and “be available” via text and email. Plus, I am information-hungry, so I can’t stay off my phone long enough to not look something up online. In fact, I am on vacation right now and I told myself I would shut it off, but it’s not happening. I’ve been able to turn off the phone for hours at a time but it’s really

    • Valerie

      been a challenge. I find my cell phone usage to be one of the biggest culprits in interrupting my daily flow; contemplating putting myself on a “diet” where I only check it once in the morning and once at night.

  • Coxienormous3

    Multi-tasking does not necessarily mean doing two different things at the exact same time.  It means handling multiple jobs or assignments over the same time period.  For example, one could be project manager on two different projects during the same period of time, though not actually discussing or meeting on both projects at the exact same moment.. 

  • http://kymira.blogspot.com/ Chimera Swa

    Multi-tasking appears rude. People come to meetings with their laptops and they start doing work – then why are they even in that room? My ‘lover’ was browsing on his phone while I was searching for a parking spot until I had to scream at him to help me. I am personally guilty of this especially when I am working on a design document and try to answer emails and texts. You are right , the brain is pushing us but it is not only fun to resist temptation but also to see how much our productivity increases if we stop multi-tasking.
    (PS : I have watched Casablanca innumerable times but did not know Rick was a chess addict :0 )

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.little.1029 Thomas Little

    Just because someone has the apparent ability to multi-task, doesn’t mean they should or that they understand all the consequences (“do as thou wilt will be the whole of the law”).

    I share the chess addiction with you part-time now @ chess.com at the 1850+ level.  There is the real question collectively whether the illusion of empowerment through “connectedness” is not instead a loss of physical power, focus, and clarity.  Fragmentation and atomization have become the effects of the free market competition of technologies.

     

  • http://www.therawness.com/ T. AKA Ricky Raw

    I’ve been trying to cut down on multi-tasking, a horrible problem for me. I’m especially guilty of checking cell phone in front of others. However it never occurred to me to look at “time travel” and “secret keeping” as multitasking. This is going to be harder than I originally thought…

  • http://twitter.com/Wataizo Raj Wall

    You made me realize the only times I’ve been really effective was when I locked myself away to write code. But that was the only way I could code effectively, so I didn’t notice nor apply to other activities. 

  • http://www.therawness.com/ T. AKA Ricky Raw

    By the way, have any of you guys tried The Pomodoro Technique or Timeboxing as a way of weaning yourself off of multitasking (google them if you don’t know what I’m talking about). I’ve found it to be a good way to gradually kick the habit.

  • Tushar

    One comment and one question:
    I am a programmer and like at most s/w companies these days, we get 2 monitors to work on. What has ended up happening with me, and I’m sure with many others, is that one screen is used for coding while the other is used for emails, browsing, FB etc. The simple way out is to turn the second monitor off, but I don’t do it as often as I should (there, I admit my small secret :) )!

    Unrelated question: Do you consider listening to music while coding to be a multi-task? I find myself more focused while doing so, but the downside is that at most times I am not be able to code without music! Is this bad?

  • Uncle Bill

    James,

    Am reminded of a pretty good book, 

    Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 

    Has much to say about focus, concentration and, ultimately, happiness.

    Worth a look…

  • Waxydavis

    when the phone rings and i’m sex i always talk to the person ….. i feel good when i hang up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Klaatu-Fabrice-Aquinas/100000870589756 Klaatu Fabrice Aquinas

    In professional life, the stark consequence of prolonged and required (coerced explicitly or implicitly) multitasking is burnout, and loss of job.  As a recently retired NOC support engineer, of 20+ years, I have a plethora of experience and examples too numerous to share in this forum to prove the point.

    I have come to the conclusion, that the human biological entity is simply neither designed or capable of multitasking, that of which corporate society demands.  To effectively and efficiently multitask, the human must become something more than human.  Thus, Transhumanism.  This is a very precarious direction we are being conditioned, and dare I say — programmed to venture.

    The bottom line is, we either become the Machine, or the machine becomes Us.  Not a direction we want to go…  (i.e. http://youtu.be/joehK-w2bCc)

    Now, for a “zero-task” exercise, may I contribute the following:

    Any Porcupine Tree into you Winamp, in a fairly large HD screen, set your visualization to Milkdrop (latest ver.), and set to fullscreen.  Just fixate on the visuals, and enjoy.  (Try to put the lyrics in ‘secondary memory’)  To further enhance the experience, try adding Cyron LED.  A few adult beverages don’t hurt either…

  • Mehran

    The multi-tasking may get its positive image from multi-tasking computers. They are advanced and high tech and who doesn’t want to be in step with “advanced and modern” ?

    But it seems some multi-tasking goes hand in hand. Driving your car and listening to music or news and drinking a soda or listening to audio books to learn a new language or watching TV while making dinner…

  • http://planetoplano.blogspot.com/ Leonardo

    There’s nothing more unbearable than what some people say when they greet you:
    “How’re you doing? ‘ keeping busy?”
    “I’m trying not to, but unfortunately I ran into you; so now I’m busy trying to think of a way to ditch you…” I’d like to answer.
      

    • Artie

      Good one, Leonardo!

  • Andris Lagsdin

    Breath in, I calm my body and mind
    Breath out, I smile
    Dwelling in the present moment
    I know this is the only moment.

    I love this post!
    Thanks James…

  • joe singer

    i love the “Time Travel” analogy.  I needed to read this when I read it.  Thanks James.

  • Mamaliberty

    And here I always thought my single mindedness was some sort of flaw… I’ve never been able to think of or do more than one thing at a time. I don’t even try. Thirty years in nursing, with absolute concentration for the job at hand, certainly didn’t change things for me, but I always felt a little deficient when others seemed to be able to do two or more things at once. (Of course, I never thought they really did a GOOD job at it… but still.)

    I agree that the key is to prioritize things constantly, and be able to shift rapidly to the higher priority when necessary. That is a given with many professions, or should be.

    Personally, I hate cell phones, iPads and so forth. Don’t have any and don’t want them. I don’t even talk on the land line telephone much because I’m 60% deaf and can’t understand what people are saying.

    Oh, and it also helps to get old. I don’t lie for a lot of good reasons, but I also can’t remember a lot of things these days so it would backfire anyway. :) That also helps to avoid worrying about the past… it really doesn’t matter a whole lot at this point.

    And absolutely… first, do no harm. Other than that, the world is my oyster. :)

  • ElliottFryback

    Hell yeah! I needed this today. Thanks for the words.

  • Ericg

    I really appreciate how you always have a problem and a solution. It’s not just a rant. Your I ideas really help me to be a better person. Thank you! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jwbats Jan-Willem Bats

    Sounds like somebody needs to take up meditation!

  • Abdullah

    Whats mean by “Time Travel” analogy or Time Travel, Could anybody explain?

  • http://essayswriter.org/ essay

    This is a very significant blog.

  • rgnuttall

    Shunryo Suzuki, Zen Master, referred to what you are talking about in his admonition to “be a bonfire”. Multitasking is multi focusing and is rarely needed. Also, Winchester, in MASH, said once, “I do ONE thing at a time, I do it well, and then I move on!”.

  • Andrea Silver

    Good article. I could nitpick a few of the items but I’m too busy drinking coffee.

  • http://twitter.com/pupukatti kikie ise febriani

    is reading this blog post while listening to music multi-tasking?

    • http://www.zerobrainwash.com/ Karolis Ramanauskas

      yes

  • Jo M.

    What a great concept. I’ve been zero tasking a LOT lately and this article is helping me to feel good about it, because every facet of society wants to make you feel bad and inadequate–so thank you. Maybe I can bet bonus points for not knowing how to text?

  • http://shereemartin.com/ Sheree Martin

    I realized a few years ago that trying to multitask was hurting me way more than helping. Most others scoff when I mention that multitasking is inefficient, at best. I expect that I’ll have the last “laugh” on that point.