September 8, 2012

Multitasking Doesn't Work

I stumbled across a blog post today about multitasking, and how it never really works. Harold, the author of the post, recommends an interesting alternative to help you be more productive.

It's called the Multiple Put Down Method. Essentially, you work on something with no distractions for 20 minutes, put it down, and come back later for another 20-minute session.

Harold described the steps like this:

  • Alert your brain that a task is coming that will require its recall, creativity, and brilliance (yes, your brain is brilliant–thank your parents). Then let some time pass–a day, perhaps.
  • When you’re ready to start, set a timer for 20 minutes, such as the stopwatch feature on an iPhone. Set your cell phone to airplane mode, turn off your email, and silence all other distractions. Then hit start on the timer.
  • During the 20 minutes, you must focus on that task without interruption. And unless the building burns down, do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes off. You may hit the wall, but keep going. The vast majority of people find they can work on that task “in the zone” until the timer goes off.
  • After 20 minutes, you have a choice: keep working or take a break. If you keep working, reset the timer to 20 minutes and go through the process again, without interruption until the next 20 minutes are up. If you decide to take a break, it can be short (such as refilling your coffee cup), medium (returning a phone call) or long (going into a meeting, or working out).
Harold says that your brain is great at running processes in the background, but it's horrible at multitasking. That means that while you're driving to work, showering, or working out, your mind will be working in the background on the task, so when you're ready, the information will drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad for about 20 minutes. The break allows your brain to restock on brilliance.

I'm definitely going to be giving this a try. Make sure you check out Harold's post for more info!

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