Is there a trick to multitasking effectively?

Yes, and here's the trick: Stop doing it. Multitasking makes us dumb. Even though you likely have a friend who claims to be a master at it, casually discussing her ability to take care of her toddler while she repaints the guest room, cooks a salmon quiche and responds to e-mail. (She's probably nodded a vacant yes to her 8-year-old's request to make his own dinner of mini doughnuts. And then 12 minutes later, realizing what she's agreed to, screams "NO!" just as he licks the last bit of powdered sugar off his chin.) What's actually happening is that her brain is using all of its resources to figure out how to switch from task to task efficiently rather than on accomplishing any one of those tasks effectively. Things are getting done, but nothing is actually being done well. And she's compromising her ability to be sharp, creative, insightful and present as she's doing it.
Research has shown that multitasking has the equivalent brain-drain of missing a whole night's sleep. The best way to accomplish the most, if you care about quality, is to connect deeply to one task at a time and devote your attention to it. You're much more likely to experience a flow state in this manner than continuous partial attention to myriad tasks.


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