Multitasking is Out, Unitasking Is In

Multi-tasking is Out; Uni-tasking Is In

I’m a die-hard proponent of unitasking (perfect term!) and have been since day one.

You simply can’t focus on anything well and be fully present when you’re trying to focus on a million other things all at the same time.

(By the way, this goes for target markets, too. You can’t be super relevant, compelling, interesting and irresistible — and offer truly meaningful solutions and results — trying to be all things to all people.)

One of the things I love so much about being a business owner is that I get to set the quality standards, conditions and pace of my work and say “no!” to anything that compromises that.

No more bosses telling us “I need that 100-page proposal perfectly proofed and edited in 5 minutes, and, oh, answer the phones while you’re at it.”

Check out this study confirming what us uni-taskers have known all along:

Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows

Still buying into the employer-driven myth and impossible standards of multitasking? Take this free multitasking test, and see how you do:

The Myth of Multitasking Revisited

(This article originally posted August 10, 2010 and updated for 2016.)

10 Comments Posted in Best Biz Practices, Productivity. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses

  1. Suzi says:

    Great articles! Thank you!

  2. Gavin Head says:

    What timing! I’ve just begun reading The Myth of Multitasking by Dave Crenshaw and have started to buy in to the concept of focusing on one task at a time. Crenshaw calls multitasking “switchtasking” because your mind cannot focus on multiple tasks simultaneously. It actually has to switch its focus from 1 task to refocus on another (jumping mental tracks). There is a price to pay when that is done by way of lost time and concentration- what Crenshaw deems a switching cost. It’s a good read and I’m looking forward to how to break my bad habit of “switchtasking” and effectively “unitask” (that’s a good term). Thanks for the post and the resources. I’ll definitely check them out!

  3. Yes, it’s what I’ve long called the “switching of mental gears.” Concentration is lost and it makes things take even longer. Soooo unproductive! 🙂

  4. Judy Reyes says:

    This makes sense…in the workplace admin assistants are routinely expected to multi-task, yet get reamed when errors are made. “Multi-task and do everything perfectly, or else.” I’m so glad to see studies that are validating what we already know. It’s impossible to truly multi-task with high quality results. Uni-tasking rules!

  5. I hear that, Judy! That’s one of the things I love so much about being a business owner — I get to set the conditions and the pace and care about the quality of my work and say “NO!” to anything that compromises that. No more bosses telling us “I need that 100-page proposal proofed and edited in 5 minutes and oh, answer the phones while you’re at it.”

  6. @ Gavin, thanks for mentioning my book!
    @ Danielle, thanks for being a champion of one-thing-at-a-time!

    If you readers would like to take a free multitasking test, they can do it at: http://www.davecrenshaw.com/exercise

    This is an online version of an activity I take the audience through in my public speeches.

    All the best,
    Dave Crenshaw

  7. Anne Doran says:

    It is nice to have it scientifically confirmed that what we are doing is the right way of going about it. thanks Danielle.

  8. Helen Albanese says:

    My exec engaged a time management consultant for me in 2008 who told me that there was no such thing as multitasking. She said the brain can only do one thing at the time. She also said that it takes 15 minutes of slight disorientation time for the brain to really switch gears.

    Well, my exec never bought it.

    To the day I retired, he was the one who said “get that off site meeting arranged now and publish the notice and so what if the distro is incorrect and there is no agenda;” “get my travel arrangements made but first show me 10 low cost direct flight options;” “answer retiree benefit escalation calls and don’t take so long;” “answer all my calls;” “reschedule my afternoon meetings;” “record all the work you are doing and time spent on each project.” All before noon.

    No more of that jazz.

    I love working for myself and I accept clients that work for me.

  9. So funny. Glanced at the stats for this post and two people hated it so much they complained about it (complaints show up in the admin panel in a glaring red box).

    I never stop being puzzled by some of the people in this industry, lol. Of all the posts that I would think many of the morons (who shouldn’t be following me in the first place) would complain about, this one wouldn’t even be on my radar. Wonder what on earth it was that set them off. It’s funny how personally invested some people can be in their indoctrinations, regardless of how detrimental it is to their well-being and intelligence.

  10. Cindy McIlhargey says:

    Hmmmmmmm Interesting. All this time I thought I was multi-tasking, when I was actually background tasking, with a little multitasking thrown in, such as answer the phone or greeting someone as they came into the office.

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