Where focus is required, multitasking is a neurological impossibility. Doing two things at once only works when we can do one of those things unconsciously. I can run and listen to a podcast at the same time because running is unconscious. If a vicious dog starts chasing me, I’m no longer really listening to the podcast.
In his book The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance, former Navy SEAL, Rich Diviney, says what really happens with conscious tasks is task switching.
Task switching within a context is relatively straight forward. Within the context of cooking, I can move between tasks like grabbing a new pot, filling it with water, and adjusting the heat on the stove quite easily. Task switching between contexts requires a lot of energy. I cannot both read the recipe and focus on a conversation at the same time. It takes time and energy to stop doing one thing, switch to the new thing, and then switch back.
That phone next to you, or in your pocket, or in your hands right now, is a bundle of different contexts. Every notification you turn on – every vibration or sound – is another context vying for your attention and distracting you from whatever task you are focussing on.
Pretending they are not interruptions doesn’t change the fact that they are interruptions.
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