Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Singletasking

Posted on: July 9, 2010

‘Multitasking’ is a buzz word we take for granted, it is assumed that people who multi-task are superior human beings when compared to others who can only focus on one job at a time, poor souls!


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But the fact is, many of us don’t understand what is multi-tasking. Is it doing 10 things at a time? Or doing ten things one after the other, in a disciplined manner, switching between them in allotted time slots, based on their priority, criticality and nature?

In the second case, it doesn’t look like multi-tasking at all. After all, at any given point of time, we only do one task, then how can it be called Multi-tasking?

Whether we accept it or not, this is the nearest we can get to multi-tasking, the other case (doing 10 things at a time) is just not possible – You may be reading Email, listening to a song and typing a SMS in phone, but in reality, your brain doesn’t process those three things together. It can’t.

Many researches say that human brain is capable of handling / processing just one string of data at a time. If you try to push it beyond that, you either lose quality of work, or worst, it may impact / damage your concentration / cognitive control.

This means, when you are trying to do multiple things in parallel, your brain really focuses on one of them, keeping others in back burner. After few minutes (or seconds, if you are really used to this) it may switch the focus to another task, do a bit of work there and jump back to the first one (or a third one), This continues forever, creating an illusion that we are multi-tasking 24*7.

This leaves us in a very big confusion. There are so many things to do and so little time, how can we manage without the magic of multi-tasking?

The solution is very simple, Just understand that we can’t multi-task and it is not an option at all. Prioritize the items in your task-list, focus on one at a time, switch between tasks if required, But let the time slots be wide enough to do some decent work in between, otherwise you will be changing channels very often, not watching any program.

That gives me an idea, may be we should ask further tips from people who watch a live sports program, and a movie, and a mega-serial, all at the same time!



N. Chokkan …

09 07 2010


2 Responses to "Why Not? — Singletasking"

very true, multi tasking should not be the cause of poor quality. Focus on one thing at a time and we’ll get more done coz we want make as many mistakes and saves time in the long run.

Why watch three programs? Try watching just one. I had written about this some time back.

For those who don’t read Tamil, i suggest this link

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