Focus can be one of the most difficult things for us to find at work, with so many things competing for our attention. We pride ourselves on our ability to "multi-task," but brain research shows that multi-tasking is a myth. Instead, we are engaged in serial tasking, which is the rapid shifting of attention from one task to another:
You and every other so-called multitasker are actually serial tasking. Rather than engaging in simultaneous tasks, you are in fact shifting from one task to another to another in rapid succession. For example, you switch from your phone conversation to a document on your computer screen to an email and back again in the belief that you are doing them simultaneously. But you're not.
A summary of research examining multitasking on the American Psychological Association's web site describes how so-called multitasking is neither effective nor efficient. These findings have demonstrated that when you shift focus from one task to another, that transition is neither fast nor smooth. Instead, there is a lag time during which your brain must yank itself from the initial task and then glom onto the new task. This shift, though it feels instantaneous, takes time. In fact, up to 40 percent more time than single tasking - especially for complex tasks.
To actually get more work done, we need to hone the habits of focus. Working with sustained effort on a single task and then, when complete, moving to the next task, is more likely to get us where we want to go.
Unfortunately, there is much to distract us, especially in the age of technology. We need to cultivate focus and the ability to stick with one task at a time. The mindmap above offers some simple, concrete suggestions for gaining more focus. Here are some additional articles to check out:
- The Pomodoro Technique Trains Your Brain Away from Distractions--This simple time managment technique has you working in short, focused bursts.