The Myth of Multitasking

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I seem to be getting contacted by more and more writers/publishers about book reviews. I was recently contacted by Dave Crenshaw who happens to admirer my blog and asked for a book review on his new book, The Myth of Multitasking How “doing it all” gets nothing done. I must say that although I was expecting a bit more meat with the book, the amount of knowledge and parable like story telling made it a pleasure to read and a great recommendation. I am also really excited to be doing this book review as part of a blog tour that seems to be all over the interwebs.

Almost everyday I tend to have 10 to 20+ tabs open in Firefox while, checking stats, emailing, chatting on aim, twittering, and thinking dam it feels good to be a multitasker, well atleast until I realized I am wasting time and just switchtasking and getting nothing done. A switchtasker is someone who is constantly switching between tasks, try to accomplish small things and get stuff done, yet over the course of time, nothing gets done. Thinking about multitasking and all the books I have read about the process such as Working the System, how running around with your head cut off trying to accomplish everything gets nothing done. While thinking about multitasking I am starting to realize that in order for myself to focus on one thing I need to purposely fail at all but one. I want to fail early, often, and to the point of where I am only focusing on 1 task at a time. Think about it, you SHOULD only have to focus at one tasks at a time, the human mind can only handle so much, you are not Neo from the Matrix and NO you do not know kung-fu. (or do you?)

Okay, so to start things off right with this review, Dave you did a great job writing this book and I must say it’s a keeper in my bookshelf and should be one in any management or CEO’s bookshelf. This book is for anyone who is the type of person who is constantly running out of hours in the day. Just thinking about the concept of multitasking it sounds perfect, but yet it’s not. The book walks you through a story about Phil the business coach and Helen the CEO. The book uses a story of Phil interacting with Helen explaining multitasking and how to over come it in a parable like explanation filled with great knowledge and background to help overcome the lie of multitasking. I also enjoyed the section about how humans can not multitask, and to prove to you I will use the example from the book.

This exercise should help my readers understand that people CANNOT (let me repeat that) CANNOT Multitask! Here is a simple exercise right from the book that illustrates the point.

Grab a pen and paper.

Draw a table like the following:

Multitasking is worse than a lie
M
1

Okay, now write the phrase “Multitasking is worse than a lie” but after each letter you write, start to write the numbers 1 to 27 on the line below, switching between the letters and numbers each time. Now you have 60 seconds, go!

So to help get you started here is the first 3 letters/numbers you need to write in this order:

Write Multitasking is worse than a lie
M Wr
1 1

TIME!

Okay, You should end up with something like this

Write Multitasking is worse than a lie
M Write Multitasking is worse than a lie
1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Now try the same thing, but this time write the phrase first and the numbers section, 60 seconds Go!

TIME!

Okay, Now I am betting the second time was a lot faster, why well the first time you were multitasking or rather (switchtasking) jumping from one to the other, whereas with the second time you were doing things in serial method and focusing at one task at a time. The book illustrates this point of multitasking very well and covers how a very busy person (phone calls, email, 5 min meetings, blogging, etc.) you are working on getting things done, but during that time between switching tasks, you are losing small chunks of time. All of these tasks and switching between them, makes me think of my computer science course and how computer systems have evolved to have multiple processors and handle these type of calculations, yet us humans are still stuck with one brain.

Thinking about all the task people try to accomplish in a day, well consider that their are only 168 hours in a week. You cannot add or subtract time, so make every second, minute and hour count towards what you want to accomplish and take action.

So while reading this book, I thought for a second wait, was a page copied directly from the Four Hour Work Week. I guess I just can’t let go of the Four Hour Work Week (or my bible as some of my friends call it. I think I will be reading it again this weekend trying to better my best and automate more of my life.)

Anyway, on page 60 of the book the myth of multitasking, we see James sets his voicemail to state the following:

“Hello, this is James. You’ve reached my voicemail, which means I’m probably meeting with a customer right now. I do check my message frequently usually at 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 4:00 PM. If you leave a message, I will be sure to get back to you before the day is over. Thank you!”

Okay so on page 93 of the Four Hour Work Week it goes into detail about how you should check your email twice per day and limit your phone calls to 1 office phone line (non urgent) and 1 cell phone line (urgent). I asked Dave about this before this review, but he has not read the Four Hour Work Week. Maybe after reading my review and some other great posts I have done, he will pickup a copy.

The Myth of Multitasking is a great book and I would recommend picking it up the next time you have an hour or two to kill at an airport or an event. The book is a quick read and I really enjoy the storyteller approach and plan to write out my own worksheet of my own life on how I spend my time. Multitasking is a myth, even the news is covering that, Multitasking is a lie.

Comments.

  1. Thanks for the post, John.

    • author joe
    • /
    • date July 26, 2010

    thanks for the book, this is perfect for me an many of my friends who still think multitasking is a good thing.

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