Today's guest post is from our board member John Hollon, VP of Editorial at TLNT.com. If I hadn't been multi-tasking yesterday, I might have posted this on time. Read on for some advice on slowing down to get more done.
You know what I like most about February? The President's Day holiday.
I used to like it even more when I was a kid and we used to get off for both Washington AND Lincoln's Birthdays, but someone decided at some point that that was one holiday too many.
But, February isn't just about President's Day.
It has a lot of those “made up” holidays you are always reading about, like National Wear Red Day and Public Sleeping Day, which I'm sure are simply marketing hooks for some industry segment somewhere.
There is one “made up” holiday this month that does make sense, though - Single Tasking Day.
It's officially observed this year on Feb. 24, and according to a web page for Single Tasking Day, it's “the day to do just one thing at a time. In today's world many multi-task, (and) many have to multi-task in order to accomplish what is needed in a day. Take this day to concentrate and complete one task at a time and don't feel guilty about it.”
OK, I generally laugh at all the silly “made up” holidays, but this is one I can get behind because although everybody thinks they can multi-task, everyone is pretty terrible at it. In addition, it can damage your health.
I am not making this up. Back in 2014, Forbes.com reported on a Stanford University study that “found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers also found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.”
To put this in layman's terms, this explains why my order at drive-thru restaurants always seems to get screwed up. It's because the person taking my order over the squawk box is also trying to deal with customers at the walk-in counter at the same time they're helping me, and that means they're juggling two tasks at the same time.
As the Stanford study points out, when that happens, something has to give -- and it's usually my lunch.
As Forbes noted, “While more research is needed to determine if multi-tasking is physically damaging the brain (versus existing brain damage that predisposes people to multi-task), it's clear that multi-tasking has negative effects. Neuroscientist Kep Kee Loh, the study's lead author, explained the implications: “I feel that it is important to create an awareness that the way we are interacting with the devices might be changing the way we think and these changes might be occurring at the level of brain structure.”
The article adds: “If you're prone to multitasking, this is not a habit you'll want to indulge – it clearly slows you down and decreases the quality of your work. Even if it doesn't cause brain damage, allowing yourself to multi-task will fuel any existing difficulties you have with concentration, organization, and attention to detail.”
This explains a lot, like why I feel so confused when I'm trying to juggle multiple tasks, and why I come close to running over so many people in parking lots who are busy doing something on their smart phone while trying to walk somewhere.
By trying to do both, they end up doing both, but very badly.
So, I advise you to embrace Single Tasking Day and know that sometimes, one of those “made up” holidays actually makes some sense. And, if you are going to take Single Tasking Day to heart, do it soon, please, before I run over you doing something on your cell phone in the mall parking lot.
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