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Learning from China: Focus Instead of Multitasking

Nov 14, 2019 | 0 comments

Our current society idolises multitasking. We already started to learn how to multitask in primary school. While in college it became a habit and while studying we perfectionalized it. When you’re working on your business today it’s hard to imagine life without multitasking. Multitasking has become our way of life.

If you ask someone how he/she is doing, the chance is high that this person will reply with “Good, busy.”

We feel good when we’re doing many things at the same time. We love multitasking. Multitasking is like a drug. You’re so used to doing many things at the same time, that you almost don’t know how to live without it. In Dutch we say; ‘I’m trying to juggle multiple balls at once’.  We all know juggling with a lot of balls isn’t easy. Yet, it has become our preferred state of being, and it’s also expected from us by our society.

The downside of multitasking is that it decreases our ability to focus. And with a lack of focus you become less effective (this influences both your short- and long-term growth). Luckily more and more people start to recognize the fact that multitasking doesn’t necessarily make you more effective.

Why? When you multitask you don’t allow your brain to focus on one project for 100%. Your mind will become a bit blurry and because of this, tasks might even take you MORE time.

There is no such thing as multitasking! We as humans have the ability to quickly switch between different patterns of thought and between tasks. But we can’t do them simultaneously

Before I continue, I’d like to share an interesting fact with you:
There is no such thing as multitasking! We as humans have the ability to quickly switch between different patterns of thought and between tasks. But we can’t do them simultaneously (even though the speed with which we switch might suggest we can). Now you know this, you will also understand the value of focus.

While I was educated to work on 8-10(!) projects at the same time, my students in China work on 1, maximum 2 projects at the same time. This doesn’t mean they are lazy (they’re sometimes also involved in extra-curricular activities). The thing is however, that while creating, they focus on one or two single projects. They’ve developed a habit of doing 1 thing at the time. And this truly makes a difference.

When it comes to creativity and innovation, ‘multitasking’ is just disastrous. A creative idea can be best developed during a process of constantly making new (creative) connections from different perspectives. Your first idea is never the best one. Probably your first idea or solution is the most obvious one.

Every idea needs time to mature. And this maturing process only happens when your brain is focused

Every idea needs time to mature. And this maturing process only happens when your brain is focused. When you don’t give your brain enough time to focus on one thing, your subconscious mind can’t make new connections and you don’t come up with new ideas. By allowing your brain to be distracted, such as while multitasking, you stop yourself from growing to your fullest potential.

During the creative proces, I see a lot of people use multitasking as an excuse. When you’re stuck in a project and you really don’t know which step to take next, you might be temped (or trained even?) to do something ‘useful’ that is still on you to-do list instead. It’s very tempting to just jump to the next project and cross off a (seemingly) urgent task. But is this task really more important than that one idea that will help your business to grow?

So the next time you catch yourself multitasking with no clear goal, gently stop yourself from doing so and choose to focus instead.

Start to stop multitasking

Reflect on your daily habits and answer the following questions. These questions will help you to get a better grip on focus.

  • How often do you multitask?
  • Why do you multitask? (Do you have a clear goal?)
  • When do you start multitasking? (Can you discover a pattern?)
  • How often do you take breaks?
  • Can you prevent yourself from multitasking? How?

Would you like to learn more techniques to enhance creativity and innovation?

I’ve just updated my Ebook with 2 new chapters. You can download it for free over here.

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