— Forget multitasking, rediscover monotasking —
“External notifications” — e-mail, instant messages, and the like — distract workers away from their primary tasks for an average of nine minutes. Worse, it takes these workers ten to fifteen minutes to get back on task, according to an article entitled “Disruption and Recovery of Computing Tasks” by researchers Eric Horvitz and Shamsi Iqbal.
The research was performed at Microsoft, the company that for the past fourteen years has been striving to get into the business of creating online tools and services that disrupt work. Apparently they’re now succeeding; every interruption consumed nearly a half hour of Microsoft employee time, according to Horvitz and Iqbal’s study.
Half an hour sounds about right the way I’ve been going lately. In fact, using that calculation I spend 28.3 hours each day being offtask.
Let’s be honest: “Multitasking” and “external notifications” are euphemisms for interruptions.
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I owe you an apology for the way I behaved last time.
dmv elizabethton tn hoursHaving worked in the Internet professional services sector, I’m an expert on computer-generated interruptions. But I saw the light some eight years ago, and since have been extolling the virtues of avoiding e-mail, fixing a dysfunctional PC-dominated workspace, and turning off the computer.
But in past weeks, I’ve strayed from those ideals, because people have actually started reading Soul Shelter and commenting. In fact, our blog now has more than 1,100 subscribers (a thousand is a piddling number compared to the big blogs, but for us, it’s an enormous milestone, especially considering that we’re such lousy marketers).
The downside of Soul Shelter’s modest popularity is that the interruptions are more frequent and more intriguing. So today I’m writing to remind myself that “multitasking” slows, rather than boosts, productivity. Here are four things I keep discovering over and over again:
Forget multitasking, rediscover monotasking
Every time I begin the day by not turning on the computer — and instead sit down with pen, paper, a clear focus on a single task (and a firm resolve to avoid “urgent” tasks) — my productivity soars.
Creativity on, CPU off
I can’t think of a less inspiring, more isolating work posture than sitting before a glowing monitor. Limiting PC use to recording, manipulating, or transmitting important information keeps productivity steady and spirits high.
Focus on the important
Facebook invitations, newspapers, 95% of e-mail, television, etc. have a common theme: Triviality. Protecting your soul in this wired age means focusing on what’s important — and important things rarely enter life via the computer, television, or popular media.
Never start a blog
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, never start a blog unless you really, really need to write. If you start a blog, you may find that you enjoy it, and start spending way too much time on it.
So there you have them: Four ways to avoid “multitasking” and do something about boosting productivity. In fact, I feel another Clark’s Rule coming on: I think I’ll call this one Clark’s Advice Regarding Multitasking Avoidance (CARMA):
Forget multitasking, rediscover monotasking.
Circling back to Microsoft: In an upcoming post I’ll describe how I once knocked Bill Gates flat on his back (I’m not making this up …).
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Computer still on? You might enjoy these related essays:
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