Switchtasking is one of the most common ways to handle a wide range of activities in businesses facing many upheavals these days. This technique is so widely used that few people pay attention to its correct way or its advantages and disadvantages. In fact, we regularly indulge in the same trend every day. Simultaneous with checking the latest news online via our mobile phones, we try to follow the broadcasted images and sound on TV while we are cooking or eating something! The same holds true at workplace. Instead of focusing on completing a project or performing a specific task, most people at different organizational levels, try to carry out several different responsibilities at the same time.
This skill or habit is the result of our brain’s ability to rapidly change the process of input processing. That is, what we know as Switchtasking is actually small switches from one issue to another. Just like most computers today do. For example, if we want to send a text message while watching TV, our brain first focuses only on the text that is being written and then quickly follows the continuation of what is shown on the TV. It is generally believed that doing several things at the same time is an honor, a skill or an art, although in reality what happens is a rapid movement of the senses and switching the direction of the brain’s attention between two or more issues. This habit may not be a problem in daily activities, but it is likely that implementing the same strategy at work can have serious consequences and reduce productivity significantly. Therefore, Switchtasking is actually a frequent switch of focus and attention.
Table of Contents
What is the switchtasking?
Switchtasking is actually the same quick and frequent change of processing and handling of different tasks that most of us do during the day at home or at work. The problem with this method is that our concentration is constantly disturbed and our brain cannot fully process a problem. It does not matter how advanced our brain is or how much more intelligent we are than others; however, if we adopt this method, this process will take place in our brain. The negative effect of this method can be better understood when two specific tasks are done once simultaneously and once separately in a concentrated manner. A simple email, letter, or accounting that may not take more than a few minutes may take up to an hour when done simultaneously. Concurrent and disruptive activity can be anything from a text message to a phone call for initiating a collaboration with us or new tasks that are put on your desk.
Each time our brain switches, it must retrieve and reprocess all the information it has stored in short-term memory to fully remember what it was doing and the next step in completing it. Usually doing several things at the same time makes us feel better because we think we are working with very high productivity. While statistics and numbers actually show that this method only prevents our brain from fully concentrating on a task at hand.
Switchtasking can be useful if…
Switchtasking can only be useful if the activities are related to each other and actually serve a specific purpose. Take the example of driving; we do several things at the same time. We control the brake, accelerator and clutch pedals, we control the steering wheel and monitor its movements, and we shift gear whenever necessary. All of these are done while our eyes are constantly fixed on the street and we monitor the movement of other cars, traffic lights, signs and pedestrians. This is an example optimal switchtasking. Therefore, one can distinguish between doing several things at the same time and going back and forth between several things. Our brain is only able to focus on the last task assigned to it and hold its information. Therefore, if several different tasks are separate and unrelated, our brain will be temporarily focused on the last task and will not be able to process and investigate all of them completely.
Switchtasking has become one of our habitual behaviors and, of course, natural habits, even if it is reversely related to higher productivity. Since responding to events, incidents, and completing tasks faster is an advantage, we subconsciously try to get things done as quickly as possible without any of them being procrastinated. Naturally, the sooner we respond to a letter, email, or call, the more efficient and productive we become, which is clearly considered as an advantage. However, in reality, a temporary sense of accomplishment can be unhealthily addictive. For this reason, the various methods must be applied to quit this unhealthy cycle.
How to prevent switchtasking ?
- Daily planning: One of the easiest ways to stay focused, at least for a day, is to plan daily, which reduces both the anxiety and stress of doing the assigned tasks and prevents from the futile effort of switchtasking. One of the planning techniques is time boxing, which designates a specific time interval for each task. Using this technique may not seem very effective at first, but eventually this technique can have a significant impact on increasing efficiency and time management and preventing frequent disruptions.
- Prioritization of your tasks: Planning can have the best results when coupled with prioritization. In this way, if it is determined that the task with the first priority requires considerable time, it can be assigned to the next day and the disruption of work order can be prevented. Of course, it is usually better to do things with higher priority because it reduces stress and pressure and makes it easier to handle other tasks.
- Focus on one task at a time: The best way to achieve higher productivity is to focus on one task and take the time to fulfill it before starting another. Of course, this is not easy at all and requires practice, discipline and patience. Once this method becomes a routine, things will be done much more efficiently with less effort. Of course, this rule cannot always be fully implemented. There are situations when it is necessary to leave a job and move quickly to the most important and urgent task. Even for these cases, there are some rules and principles. For example, more important tasks such as reviewing letters, or getting feedback on project implementation, etc. can be addressed every one hour.
- Interrupt management: In fact, things may not always go as planned. There are days when urgent tasks, prioritized activities and other tasks cause frequent interruptions. In these cases, it is better to change the daily schedule and schedule and discard less necessary tasks that may cause disruption, such as talking to colleagues or replying to emails, etc.
- Short breaks: Some people assume that a productive day includes many back to back working hours without any breaks whereas this way of working only reduces the efficiency during the day. Without short breaks, our energy decreases rapidly. To prevent this, you should have short breaks for walking, eating snacks, etc. Of course, it should be noted that this time should really be spent on resting and not on checking emails, answering chats and checking news or other information on mobile phone!
- Experimentation: No one can determine the best condition of their mental function better than others. However, most people are unaware of their ideal working conditions. Therefore, finding these conditions requires experimentation and discovery, because the ways and means that increase the concentration of each person may be different from the others, and there are no specific and fixed formulas and golden rules for it.
Avoiding changing goals and doing a few distinctive tasks may seem annoying and difficult at first, but this method will be fruitful after a while, and its effects on increasing efficiency and effectiveness will be significant; the reward and satisfaction of this increase in efficiency will outweigh the initial convenience of the conventional switchtasking method.