Have you ever wondered why it is that the more you try to get done by multitasking, the less you actually get done? There’s actually a well proven axiom that defines this phenomenon.
Most people think that they are being efficient by doing several things at once. The problem is, that the human mind can only really pay attention to one thing at time.
There are tasks that lend themselves to being done while doing other things. Driving and listening to the radio come to mind, but things like driving and eating oatmeal, or driving and shaving are considerably more difficult.
An economics professor once said during class that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. The way he explained it was:
“If I give you all a 30 page research paper, and tell you it’s due tomorrow, some of you will grumble and complain and maybe even call the dean and complain about my unreasonable timeline etc. but the majority of you will show up tomorrow with a 30 page paper. If, on the other hand, I tell you that you have 2 weeks to turn in that same paper, the majority of you will go on about your life and wait until the end of day 13 to start writing your paper.”
Going back to our example of driving and eating oatmeal. It may take you 10 minutes to eat your bowl of oatmeal while you’re sitting at your breakfast table when that’s all your doing. However, if you try to eat that same bowl during your 30 minute commute, I bet it takes you closer to 30 minutes to finish up.
So, give yourself tight deadlines and focus on completing that one task.
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