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when multitask and when one task at a time

itsjzt profile image Saurabh Sharma ・2 min read

For a while I was trying to listen to podcasts while I was coding; initially, it felt right but the more I did it the more it felt wrong.It was nice till I was doing tasks that don't require much analytical thinking but when I was doing anything which took a lot of brain power while listening to some podcasts, it doesn't work, I simply can't think. When I realized this I researched on the topic of multitasking and here is the gist of it:

1. History of Multitasking

first of all the work multitasking wasn't made in the for humans tasks, it was made for computers. In computers, it was a more efficient use of resources to run multiple processes when one process was waiting for any external event such as user input or a network request. Initially, computers were doing very fast context switching between tasking which makes it feel like multitasking, later computers got multiple cores parallel processing became possible. Unfortunately, Neither human brains are good at context switching nor we have multiple cores.

2. When you should focus on one thing at a time

According to some experiments, the human brain can be trained to better multitasking, but even after extensive training; how well you can multitask depends on the kind of work you're doing. Difficult task or tasks that require high creativity are much harder to multitask.

There are some popular beliefs about women being a better multitasker than men's, but there isn't enough data to assert that proves that. Most of the theories are based on evolutionary explanations like Hunter-Gatherer Hypothesis.

People have a limited ability to retain information, which worsens when the amount of information increases so if you are doing a task that requires keeping a lot of data in mind, It will be even better to split the tasks into smaller chunks which require fewer things to keep in mind.

3. Often focussed work is more valuable than shallow work

Most of the time in the real world, the reason for multitasking is because of the vast stream of constant data thrown at us. Your news app wants you to read this breaking news, Your game wants you to collect these new coins, Your friends have posted these new pictures, 30 people are talking about the dog pic you uploaded yesterday. These all are shallow tasks, they don't take a lot of time, but they distract you and their return of investment isn't big.

Focussed tasks are the opposite of them, they require more time to do, They require more creativity and thinking but they yield big results, often they are related to some long term goals.

You should be prioritizing focussed work and try to minimize shallow work. Shallow work is important but more often they aren't as valuable since they can be done by anyone or can be easily learned.

Cover pic credits: Thanks to Marvin Meyer for sharing their work on Unsplash

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Saurabh Sharma

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