How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking

Coming to the realisation that he was not really present in what he was doing, and (mis)using his position to shift focus, when he was bored or uanble to take a break, this guy took a week off of “multitasking”:

First, it was delightful. I noticed this most dramatically when I was with my children. I shut my cell phone off and found myself much more deeply engaged and present with them. I never realized how significantly a short moment of checking my email disengaged me from the people and things right there in front of me. Don’t laugh, but I actually — for the first time in a while — noticed the beauty of leaves blowing in the wind.

Second, I made significant progress on challenging projects, the kind that — like writing or strategizing — require thought and persistence. The kind I usually try to distract myself from. I stayed with each project when it got hard, and experienced a number of breakthroughs.

Third, my stress dropped dramatically. Research shows that multitasking isn’t just inefficient, it’s stressful. And I found that to be true. It was a relief to do only one thing at a time. I felt liberated from the strain of keeping so many balls in the air at each moment. It felt reassuring to finish one thing before going to the next.

Fourth, I lost all patience for things I felt were not a good use of my time. An hour-long meeting seemed interminably long. A meandering pointless conversation was excruciating. II became laser-focused on getting things done. Since I wasn’t doing anything else, I got bored much more quickly. I had no tolerance for wasted time.

Fifth, I had tremendous patience for things I felt were useful and enjoyable. When I listened to my wife Eleanor, I was in no rush. When I was brainstorming about a difficult problem, I stuck with it. Nothing else was competing for my attention so I was able to settle into the one thing I was doing.

Sixth, there was no downside. I lost nothing by not multitasking. No projects were left unfinished. No one became frustrated with me for not answering a call or failing to return an email the second I received it.

via How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review.