Duped by Multi-Tasking

I’ve officially been duped by multi-tasking. I always think I’m gaining something by pausing one task and quickly doing another. I feel like I’ve beaten time, but the truth is, I’ve lost. Why does it feel like I’m winning? Because switching-time is deceiving.

Switching-time is the time it takes to stop one task, complete another, and return to the original task I was working on. It’smulti-task. For example, I just checked my email as I was writing this. Now, I’m staring blankly at this post and I’m going to have to reread it just to get back into the flow.

When I choose to multi-task, I’m avoiding concentration, and this is where the devastating part comes in. Concentration is what success cost. There is no substitute for long periods of uninterrupted, focused work.


But it’s more than derailing a single task in the moment. Naively, I assume that all that’s lost was the 3 minutes it took to complete the new task and refocus. Not true. Switching-time cost more than minutes.

When multi-tasking, my concentration muscle is actually shrinking, and over time, it atrophies. Then it’s all downhill from there. Distractions rule and my life is dominated by the tyranny of the urgent or unimportant.

Mono-tasking has the opposite effect. When I choose to concentrate on one task at a time, the quality of my work improves. But more importantly, my concentration muscle grows. And with it the overall success of my life.

Don’t multi-task. Create a habit of concentration. Don’t let switching-time deceive you like it did me.