Deep Work (2016) is all about how the rise of technology has wrecked our ability to concentrate deeply on tasks – and how to overcome this blockade. These blinks illustrate different strategies that can help you improve the output of your work and get the most out of your free time.
A lot of people think that doing tons of things at once is the most productive use of their time, but this logic is dead wrong. That’s because multitasking does not equal productivity. Sophie Leroy, a business professor at the University of Minnesota who conducted research on this phenomenon in 2009, shows why.
She demonstrates that when switching from task A to task B, our attention stays attached to the first activity, which means we can only half-focus on the second, which hurts our performance. Her experiments utilized two groups: group A worked on word puzzles until she interrupted them to go on to reading resumes and making hypothetical hiring decisions; Group B got to finish their puzzles before moving on to the resumes.
In between the two tasks, Leroy would give a quick test to see how many keywords from the puzzles were still stuck in the participants’ minds.
Group A was much more focused on the puzzle and therefore less focused on the important task of hiring the right person.
The long and short of it? Multitasking is no good for productivity. Neither is being electronically connected all the time. In fact, while it might seem harmless to keep social media and email tabs open in your web browser, the mere fact of seeing things pop up on your screen is enough to derail your focus, even if you’re not immediately addressing notifications.
For instance, a 2012 study by the consulting firm McKinsey found that the average worker spends over 60 percent of the workweek using online communication tools and surfing the internet with just 30 percent devoted to reading and answering emails.
Despite this data, workers feel like they’re working more than ever. That’s because completing small tasks and moving information around makes us feel busy and accomplished – but it’s actually just preventing us from truly focusing.