Hidden Pages

The Myth of Multi-tasking 

Having so much information available to us and much of it arriving as an unexpected, uninvited and un-negotiated interruption (predominantly via e-mail), we now work in a constant state of multi-tasking. 

Research by Intel shows that the average amount of time a modern knowledge worker gets between interruptions is just 3 minutes. As a result, we average only 11 minutes on any single working ‘sphere’ or project before switching to another task. And 40% of the time we won’t get back to that original task again for that day! 

So now we start to ‘multi-task’. But multi-tasking is actually a myth – nobody truly multi-tasks. What we are actually doing is ‘task switching’. And the psychological ‘switching of mental gears’ can take up to 45 minutes when trying to resume a complex task that has been interrupted.

The time it takes to 'recover' from an interruptions adds up surprisingly - New York research company Basex has found that more than a quarter of the workday (28% or 134.4 minutes) is lost to interruptions AND the time taken to recover or refocus (see graph below).   

That’s why we can often find ourselves with a dozen windows open on the computer (and several project files open on the desk) at any one time. But by the end of the day, we often feel we have accomplished very little. 

As Timothy Ferriss, author of the best-seller ‘The Four Hour Workweek’, says - “Multi-tasking is dead. It never worked and it never will. Intelligent people love to sing its praises because it gives them permission to avoid the much more challenging alternative: focusing on one thing.” 

Single-task your e-mail

When it comes to e-mail, we will achieve far better (and quicker) results by visiting the inbox at a scheduled time of focused, ‘single-tasking’. This way, we have the time needed to make a 4D decision on each e-mail the first (and only) time we look at it. This process is far superior to allowing e-mail as an interruption that we try to ‘multi-task’ with various other tasks.  

Why not try ‘single-tasking’ your e-mail today and experience the difference for yourself? 

Read more - Why Multi-tasking Doesn’t Really Work 

All the best!

Steuart Snooks