Singletasking

Get More Done- One Thing at a Time

Devora Zack (Author)

Publication date: 04/10/2015

Singletasking

We have become a nation—one of many—addicted to the popular, enticing, and dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. Author Devora Zack was hooked once herself. This book is her intervention—she beat her addiction and became more efficient, and she shows how you can too.

You think you can do more by tackling several tasks at once? That’s an illusion, and Zack marshals a host of neuroscientific evidence to prove it. The fact is, your brain is designed to singletask. Multitasking is unnatural, ineffective, stressful, and occasionally dangerous. You and the world are better off when you focus on one thing at a time. But with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today, isn’t that an impossible dream? Nope.

The key is controlling your inside and your outside. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently but firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. You don’t have to become a hermit. You can still live in the 21st century.

This book flies in the face of long-standing rhetoric glorifying multitasking. Zack presents elegantly simple methods for tackling your typical insurmountable list of to-dos with less effort and greater ease. Only clowns should juggle. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

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Overview

We have become a nation—one of many—addicted to the popular, enticing, and dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. Author Devora Zack was hooked once herself. This book is her intervention—she beat her addiction and became more efficient, and she shows how you can too.

You think you can do more by tackling several tasks at once? That’s an illusion, and Zack marshals a host of neuroscientific evidence to prove it. The fact is, your brain is designed to singletask. Multitasking is unnatural, ineffective, stressful, and occasionally dangerous. You and the world are better off when you focus on one thing at a time. But with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today, isn’t that an impossible dream? Nope.

The key is controlling your inside and your outside. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently but firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. You don’t have to become a hermit. You can still live in the 21st century.

This book flies in the face of long-standing rhetoric glorifying multitasking. Zack presents elegantly simple methods for tackling your typical insurmountable list of to-dos with less effort and greater ease. Only clowns should juggle. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Devora Zack

I’m author of three books and president of Only Connect Consulting, Inc. I have an MBA from Cornell University (full-tuition merit scholar) and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania (magna cum laude). 

I am visiting faculty for Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, and have twice been invited on speaking tours in Australia by the Australian Institute of Management. I’m a certified practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Mensa. 

My first two books, Networking for People Who Hate Networking and Managing for People Who Hate Managing, have been translated into more than twenty languages including Cantonese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Marathi, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish. 

I’ve been featured in media such as ABC-TV, British Airways, CNBC, CNN, Cosmo, Fast Company, Forbes, Fox News, Redbook, Self, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, Wall Street Journal, and Women’s Health.

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Table of Contents

PREFACE 
INTRODUCTION 
PART ONE: RECLAIM YOUR LIFE
 
Chapter 1. The Multitasking Myth
Chapter 2. The Singletasking Principle 
PART TWO: REGAIN CONTROL 
Chapter 3. Your Mind 
Chapter 4. Your Days 
Chapter 5. Your Interactions 
PART THREE: RECALL WHAT MATTERS 
Chapter 6. Action ≠ Results 
Chapter 7. Home Sweet Home 
APPENDIX: RETORTS TO MULTITASK HARDLINERS 
NOTES 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
INDEX 
AT YOUR SERVICE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Excerpt

Multitasking fails us.

Let me take that one step further. Multitasking doesn’t even exist. We’ll circle back to this alarming yet scientifically backed claim later.

Why are so many people drawn into the albatross of multitasking? We are collectively thwarted by modern-day plagues such as:
  • Too much to do, too little time
  • Cluttered life, cluttered mind
  • Growing piles of daily demands
  • A whirlwind of distractions
Nooo! [Cue eerie Halloween music.]

This list is the tip of the iceberg. Go ahead; brainstorm a few dozen examples of your own. I’ll wait here, tapping my foot, growing ever more anxious that I’m wasting my irreplaceable time.

When you return, check out how one guy I interviewed described multitasking in daily life: “What is the impact of multitasking when looking at text messages while driving? Reading the newspaper while talking on the phone to colleagues? Watching NFL Live when your wife wants to talk about schedules? You run into the car ahead of you, agree to finish a project before it canpossibly be done, and schedule a business trip on your father-in-law’s birthday.”

In a fruitless effort to compensate for the tsunami we call our lives, we try to tackle several tasks at once . . . making distracted living rampant. We lose concentration, heighten stress, and senselessly fret over items unrelated to the task at hand. We are relentlessly disrespectful to the people right in front of us—colleagues, customers, vendors, employees, cohorts, and our own family.

Fragmented attention (aka multitasking) fractures results and foils relationships.

A Monster in Our Midst

What makes multitasking so enticing?

We know of the dangers of texting and driving, yet many of us still do it. How can we circumvent distraction? Why is it so difficult to immerse ourselves in a single task at a time? Because lurking around every turn is what I call the multitask monster. Many are thwarted by this compelling creature.

One of his primary tricks is pulling our attention toward unrelated obligations as we work. He looms over our desks, lumbering around our workplace, two heads recklessly swinging in opposite directions, daring us to focus on one over the other. As we stare in despair at our stealthily expanding in-box, the multitask monster soothingly whispers into our ears the Sole Solution: “Tackle two, three, four at once! It is your only hope.”

Worse, seemingly everyone else has taken on the multitask monster as a revered guide, responding to his every beck and call.

Resist! Stop the madness! Gather your resilience and kick that multitask monster out the door. Multitask monsters are like ocean sirens luring sailors to disast —though notably less well groomed.

What if I asked you to banish the multitask monster for one day? Could you do it? What would stop you? Can you give it a go? What results will you reap?

One client reflected, “I’ve always prided myself on being a multitasker over the years, but if I were to do honest self-evaluation today, I realize there are pitfalls to all this madness!”

Another acknowledged, “When I do more than one thing at a time I never do anything particularly well.” 

The hard fact is that attempting to multitask correlates with low productivity.1 By definition, doing more than one thing at a time means you are distracted. The only way to do anything particularly well—or, let’s raise the bar, spectacularly well—is through full task engagement. As I heard a father sagely explain to his son, a newly minted college grad, “At any given time, you can do one thing well or two things poorly.”

The Allure of Distraction

We are distracted. This does not serve us well. 

Don’t blame yourself entirely. Cultural expectations—based on technological advances—have resulted in unrealistic demands. We are expected to absorb a torrent of information from a plethora of media without pause. We are to be constantly accessible.

Many of us react to the alarming pile of demands by splitting our focus among tasks. We are in the midst of an increasing trend toward what Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention”— giving superficial, simultaneous attention to competing streams of information.2 Living in our own personal big bang, we feel unable to keep pace with the frenetically expanding universe encircling our lives. Again and again I hear, “The more I try to keep up, the more overwhelmed I become.” 

A slew of people suffer from the misconception that multitasking is necessary to cope with task overload. This always backfires.

Multitasking is misleading. Rather than mitigating demands, it magnifies our problems. Our brains are incapable of honing in on more than one item at a time.

Multitasking blocks the flow of information into short-term memory. Data that doesn’t make it into short-term memory cannot be transferred into long-term memory for recall. Therefore, multitasking lowers our ability to accomplish tasks.

We are losing our ability to focus. We are scattered. We are impolite. We cause—and suffer from—accidents. We are unproductive. We relinquish control. We pretend to multitask.

Why did I say “pretend”? Because multitasking doesn’t exist! I’ll keep sneaking in this factoid until you’re ready to hear it. It’s make-believe! Think Zeus throwing lightning bolts. Or Casper the Friendly Ghost.

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Endorsements

"Don't let Zack's lighthearted tone fool you—Singletasking is backed by hard science, and this book's pragmatic advice can really change your work and your life."
—David Bach, nine-time New York Times bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire and Smart Women Finish Rich

“Singletasking can literally double your productivity and performance overnight. This may be the most important book on time and personal management you will ever read.”
—Brian Tracy, author of the bestselling Eat That Frog!

“This book could save your life. Multitasking has become a fatal distraction that can ruin your health, your relationships, and your work. Now there’s a cure: Singletasking. Read this intensely engaging, laugh-out-loud funny, and down-to-earth practical book—you’ll be glad you did.”
—Jim Kouzes, coauthor of The Leadership Challenge

“I’ve been a member of Parliament, an executive director, and a consultant on corporate social responsibility in Africa. I have experienced the stress of multitasking and am grateful for Devora Zack’s luminary book on singletasking.”
—Hon. Rev. Dr. Walter McLean, former Secretary of State, Canada

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