The "Bad" kind of multitasking, avoiding distractions, and meditation
You might think that because this is a course on productivity hacking, I'm going to teach you how to do 10 things at once to speed things up so you can achieve twice as much work in the same amount of time. But actually this is exactly the opposite of what I want you to do to be more productive. Sure, while the next lecture will deal with how to use a form of multitasking effectively and responsibly. I want to tell you that 80% of multitasking is in fact destructive to your productivity and your work quality. Even if you pride yourself on being a skilled multitasker, the truth is, multitasking is just a way of doing two or more things poorly and slowly you might think you are doing a great job at all the tasks you're juggling but in reality dividing your focus yields really lousy results. This is a topic that I've learned time and time again. Whether it's through my interviews with flow experts, steven, Kotler and digital distraction expert, Dr Greg wells or through best selling books ...
like cal Newport's deep work, no matter who you ask, the science is clear, multitasking reduces how effectively you perform but believe it or not, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know, for example that when switching between micro tasks, even for just a second, there's a distinct period of confusion and decreased mental acuity before you can re enter into the focus ST we're going to talk about this more in our upcoming lecture about focus and flow but for now I want to give you an example, You've probably experienced, imagine you're filling out a work related form and you're fully focused, You are in the zone until someone calls you on the phone, this is surely happened to you. And so you've surely experienced the feeling of settling back down after the phone call and trying to figure out where you were on the form. Now, it may seem like it only takes you a few seconds to pick up where you left off, but if you're performing some kind of high functioning task, in fact, it takes much longer. It's actually been suggested that it can take as much as 15 minutes to get back into the zone. This is to say that while our brains are very sophisticated at maintaining tons of different threads of thoughts are focused at once, they're far less efficient at doing so than we would like to believe while you may think you're multitasking as you listen to a podcast, answer chat messages from customers, read your emails and chit chat with your co worker across the room. The reality is that each and every micro shift is costing you productivity, whether that means needing to reread the chat message from a minute ago to remember to ask your coworker to repeat something they said or to rewind that podcast a little bit, those little hiccups add up and they cost you time Now I want you to imagine if it takes 15 minutes to get back into your optimally focused state after a micro distraction, What do you think happens when you have a text message or notification coming in every few minutes? You guessed it, you are never able to get back into your peak state. But wait because it gets even worse than that in his blockbuster bestseller deep work author cal Newport's describes the actual structural changes that happen to the distracted brain. That's right. Not only does multitasking make you less effective and less efficient but repeated multitasking and distraction actually makes you incapable of focusing on one thing at a time. After all, the human brain is an incredibly adaptive instrument. It will adapt to whatever you force it to repeatedly do. And if you repeatedly force it to switch tasks and respond to distractions, well, guess what? It will adapt and as a result you will find yourself unable to concentrate and perform deep thinking instead of falling victim to this all too common trap. I want to encourage you to shut off all distractions whenever possible. Try to do one thing at a time and only one thing if your co workers want to chat, put the emails on hold if you're answering emails, set yourself a deadline like we discussed earlier, Put on headphones with some non distracting music to make it clear that you're focusing, set your phone to do not disturb and get the emails done for activities that require your mental acuity multitasking is about the worst thing you can do for your productivity. Give this a try stay focused on one task and see how much more effective you are most likely you're going to find that it's really hard for you that your brain has actually learned to love jumping around. You'll start to itch for your smartphone to wonder how many emails are coming in or what the people in the office next door are doing. Fight that temptation in one powerful exercise from his book cal Newport's suggests that the next time you're waiting in line or standing at the bus stop, try just well waiting in line or standing at the bus stop, fight that urge to be constantly distracted and stimulated and over time you will regain the ability to focus on one thing at a time and even more powerful way to regain your ability to focus. Is by practicing meditation, meditation is incredibly powerful tool because it helps us train our brains to focus on one thing at a time and it helps us understand how impossible that has become in our culture of constant multi sensory overload. There's a common misconception that meditation means clearing your mind and not having any thoughts, but in fact the opposite is true in meditation, you clear your mind of every thought except one whether that's the sensation of your own breath, a mantra or oppose. In the case of yoga meditation then is simply training your brain to notice when it becomes distracted and to gently bring itself back into what you wanted to focus on in a very real sense, meditation is the practice of conquering your mind. If you decide to embark on a journey of meditation, which I strongly recommend you might be shocked and disappointed to see that you can only focus on something as simple as your breath for one or two seconds before getting distracted. Don't worry, this doesn't mean that you're failing to meditate, it means that you're doing it right. Celebrate the fact that you are catching your mind wondering and remember that every time you bring it back into focus you are strengthening your mental muscles, not to mention all of the incredible emotional, psychological and physiological benefits that science has discovered in his experienced meditators. You see the beauty of meditation is that it simultaneously teaches you to improve your focus while training you to accept the monkey mind, reduce stress, perform under pressure and avoid aggravation. In fact, it turns out that a great majority of the world's most productive and successful people in the arts, business government and more are all avid practitioners of meditation from Oprah to Tony Robbins to Bill Clinton and even paul McCartney, there are literally thousands of top performers who claim that a huge part of their success is owed to the focus they gained from meditation. So I strongly recommend you check out some of the links I've provided, including interviews that I've done with some of the world's top experts in meditation. I'll be honest, when you start out, it's a surprisingly difficult thing to do after the first time you try, you will likely say I'm just not someone who can meditate, but guess what feeling that is how you know that you need to meditate. So now we understand the many perils of so called multitasking and how it has made modern humans incapable of focusing in on one thing effectively. With that said, there are some things you can do to get tasks done faster and we'll cover those in the following lectures.