Multitasking becomes a dirty word more and more. Multitasking doesn’t exist anymore, doesn’t work and even women can’t do it. Instead of multitasking, we should focus on one thing only. Just focus on that one thing, direct all your attention on the project you are working on and don’t get distracted. Cal Newport (who I’m about to interview next friday) calls it hard focus and preaches it a lot. Leo Babauta thinks it works, actually, you can’t count the number of bloggers who doesn’t agree with the concept of hard focus on one hand.

What do the concepts mean?

Multitasking

Multitasking is ‘to process several tasks simultaneously’. So while you are doing research for a paper, you twitter at the same time, you are on an instant messenger and you read your RSS feed. And that should work. You are doing a lot together, which means you are working long on the paper, but you finish other things also. Women claim to be really good at multitasking and they claim also that men can’t. Which supposably makes them the better gender.

Hard focus

Yoda (the little green man) says in Star Wars Episode 2: ‘Concentrate all your firepowers on the nearest starship.’ That is what hard focus is. Focus on one thing only. Concentrate all your powers on the one task you are doing. If you need to do research for your paper, shut down everything except your internet browser. Shut down your cell phone, your music player and you TV. Just focus on the research only. You can twitter later and read your RSS feed even later. Focus on one task at the time, that will work.

And the winner is..

In the 21st century, hard focus has won. Congratulations hard focus, you won on the internet. All the bloggers affirm it. Focus on your writing only and you will succeed. This includes me. I think you need hard focus. When you write, you should focus on that only, only then, you can write good, quality articles. Studying, the same thing. Focus on your study material only, don’t try to start conversations with friends at the same time.

Or should we call the battle ‘productivity versus comfort’?

On the productivity side, hard focus won. But hard focus doesn’t feel right. You want to do more things. This is obvious, if you look back at when we were cavemen. You couldn’t be eating mammoth only, you needed to watch the fire and look out for predators. Multitasking brings comfort to ourself. You don’t have to focus all the time, you can let your mind slip away every once in a while. Look at other things, make yourself feel comfortable. So, on the comfort side, multitasking would probably win.

Focus on one task only?

But what if we don’t focus on one task only, but focus on related tasks only. If you are studying, why don’t you put an instant messenger on also, but only to talk to people with questions about the same study material you are studying. Go sit in the library, ignore only the persons who are talking about last night in the bar, but listen to the ones who are asking you something about the same cell biology you have to learn. The interruptions you get when you answer people’s wuestions (or when they answer yours) figure as a good break and it keeps you awake.

If you are blogging, keep your music player on, keep twitter on. It may boost your creativity, ask for a good quote on twitter, get people their opinion on what you are writing. Keep reading you RSS feeds for new ideas. But clearly, you can’t focus on unrelated tasks at the same time. The example I used before about doing research for a paper and reading your RSS feed at the same time won’t work, because both the mindsets differ. When you are in the study-mindset, focus on study related tasks only.

My opinion

I find myself the most productive when I focus on one thing only for a set time. I am easily distracted, so shutting down everything is a good thing for me. I find one hour in the library sitting alone more productive than three hours at home with my laptop in front of me. I try to find a quiet place when I´m studying. When I am writing though, I find myself more productive in crowded areas, with many distractions, like the public transport. It´s something you should find out yourself, experiment with yourself. Test both of the ways, don´t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Try hard focus. Try to find a quiet place and study for an hour solely. Try multitasking also. Go sit in a bar, start texting your girlfriend and try to study also. Just see how it works out.

Experimenting with yourself brings amazing results. Good luck.

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