The power of focus in a world that can’t stop multitasking.
A multitasking world
We have constantly, and erroneously I’d add, been made to believe that you must become an expert multitasker in other to be considered smart and productive. And several people pride themselves as intelligent because they’re able to do multiple things at once, even when done haphazardly.
The general belief is that if you can do multiple things at once (multitasking), then you’re more productive than others. Especially those who only focus on a single task at a time (unitaskers), gets it done before moving to the next.
In fact, some employers seem to value employees who can multitask. But this gradually changes as organizations assess their output over a long period of multitasking their workers.
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Multitaskers are less productive
However, according to a research conducted at Stanford University some years ago, participants who multitasked were found to be less productive than those who focused on a single task at a time. The former were also found to be less capable of maintaining attention on a given task, recalling information, as well as switching between tasks.
In our world where there are millions of data (information) constantly flooding our electronic devices, making a deliberate effort choice of what to read, watch and listen to becomes a virtue.
There is an invisible pull to read every message, reply to every email, watch every video, know all the latest songs. All these while still doing our jobs, taking care of our families, visiting friends, doing house chores etc. We feel lost and uninformed about the succedendi (happenings) around us and so attempt to consume all the junk flying around.
In fact, we sense an unknown pressure to respond to calls even while on the wheels, as though it were an emergency. And people who do so, without the use of appropriate hearing aids, see themselves as skilled and talented.
Multitasking lowers your IQ according to one study
Another study from the University of London found that participants who multitasked experienced a decline in their IQ similar to what you’d observe if they took marijuana or stayed awake all night. According to the study, the drop in IQ was as much as 15 points for some men. So, the claim of multitaskers being more intelligent than unitaskers is unsubstantiated.
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Long term brain damage due to multitasking?
There have been debates on whether there are specific organic modifications in the brain that predispose people to multitask, just as some scientists have claimed that multitasking damages the brain cells in the long run. That’s beyond the scope of this article and more work is needed in that area too.
The power of focus illustrated
I often compare the power and impact of focus to the energy a body of water in motion has when channelled in a given direction for a specific purpose.
Consider the hydroelectric power (hydroelectricity) that is produced by harnessing the kinetic energy of water running down a dam, turning the blades of turbines and generating electric power (electricity) that can serve a community.
The kinetic energy of the moving water is so powerful that it can turn the turbines because it was properly channelled in a given direction for a specific purpose.
Now, imagine if that same body of water were split into multiple channels for other purposes such as irrigation, industrial use, aquaculture, navigation or for human consumption. There will be a sharp drop in the force which may not be able to turn the blades of a mid-sized turbine.
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This is the same thing that happens when you split your attention among multiple tasks. You might seem to be accomplishing much in the short term, and especially with minor chores. But in the long run you’ll discover that you actually accomplished less and might need to repeat some of those chores because you weren’t focused – you did shabby work.
Whereas if you had focused on a single task at a time, you’d have done a great job and saved time as well.
In a world that can’t stop multitasking, the ability to focus on a single task at a time becomes essential.
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