Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Does Multitasking Make You Stupid?

I’ve discovered something a bit disturbing about myself, and it seems many authors side with me on this. Multitasking makes us stupid. Nice, huh? But it’s true.
  Let’s be clear on what I mean by ‘stupid’. Most of us live our daily lives in multitasking mode. We make breakfast, get the kids ready for school, drop a load of laundry in the washer, another in the dryer, make sure lunch money is provided - all while getting ourselves ready for our work day. On the drive to work we think about work chores, our novel in progress, and what we’re going to make for dinner. Never mind the sort of multitasking we do at work. Whew! But it’s the world we live in, and we’ve learned to thrive in it. So, when I say ‘stupid’ I mean it in a relative manner.

All of this seems to work for us, most of the time. But have you ever noticed what happens when one of our tasks escalates to a conscious level? More of our focus is shifted to the immediate task however everything else is still running in the background. We’re not fully focused, just more focused.

There are studies out there that show shifting between several tasks that require conscious thought will cost us a great deal of efficiency – up to 50%.

If you’re in a corporate environment and have had to go through the famous Time Management training, I’m sure you’ve heard that an interruption of your concentration on a focused task can cost you up to 20 minutes of lost focus. So, continued interruption can cost you a great deal of productivity. This is even more important for authors. To be successful at writing, we need good organization and top concentration on our craft.

What can we do about it? I mean, it’s not like we can walk away from the responsibilities of our daily lives, or flip a switch and shut it all down for a time, right? Wrong. We are in control…um, hopefully. For those among us who are walking on the edge of sanity, a good 30 minutes of quiet meditation before attempting a pure focus session may be helpful. J

Okay, here’s what you can do: Shut the multitasking side of you off. Just, STOP MULTITASKING. Simple, right? I know, easier said than done, so I’ve listed a few examples of how you can begin to achieve focus when writing.

·         Get rid of the phone. Turn it off, lock it in a drawer, hide it between your mattresses, or bury it in the back yard. Do whatever it takes. And don’t be sneaky and leave the house phone plugged in. Unplug it.

·         Set a timer for however long you plan a session. I like to set mine for 60 minutes at a time.

·         Now, here’s the hardest part (at least for me): Close down your social network. Yep, get off the internet, shut it down, walk away. Close your email programs, instant-messaging, texting, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else that can interrupt your session. No excuses. It will all be there when you return to it.

I can hear the moans and groans already. What, you want me to write in isolation? I need commotion, organized chaos, background noise, something! I’ll never be able to concentrate like this.

Okay, if you need background noise, turn on a stereo and play some music. NO television. It is a visual distraction. Find some music that will help you get into your rhythm. I use and where I have different play lists for different moods. I’m one of those who can’t listen to vocals while I write, I find it too distracting and always want to sing along, so I’ve made a couple of purely instrumental lists.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Don’t forget to leave your comments and let us know what works for you. Do you have a secret way of closing out the world so you can write? How do you deal with whiny kids, barking dogs, ringing doorbells, or any other intrusions?

As always, I wish you all the best in your success.

Dee Ann