We humans believe that we are great at multitasking, even though it has been proven time and time again that we are really really bad.
Intrinsically we know this. We even get angry when someone interrupts us in the middle of a thought or a task.
I am fascinated by this and found some cool science that backs it up and some very scientific names that are extremely hard to say. So buckle up.
So why do we lose time when moving from task to task?
This is called the psychological refractory period.
In summary, it refers to the time we need to finish the process of the first stimulus before being able to react to the second one. Remember, our brains are processing machines.
This happens every time we need to start a new task.
How much time will I lose?
Well, this is the hard part. Because every brain is different, your mileage may vary. But one thing we can say for sure is that task switching will make you lose time.
Some argue that it can cost you as much as 40% when changing from one task to another.
But I am good at task switching, I don’t lose time.
That’s really good to know, unfortunately, that doesn’t work for all of us. Only around 2% of the world’s population can properly multitask.
If you are one of them, like the yellow chair in the image above, good for you 👍. But chances are that you are not. Chances are, you are one of the green ones.
How can we get more time?
Before starting your work, plan it. It may look like you are wasting time planning what you are going to do, but think about this scenario:
- Spend 10% of your day planning what you are going to do (48 minutes in an 8 hour day)
- Batch all similar tasks together and create groups that will minimize context switching
- Keep distractions to a minimum. Yes, Facebook, Instagram and all those notifications that you are checking are TASKS. You are context switching. Save that for your lunchtime or a special window of 15/30 minutes in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
- Use a board or check list to keep your focus