Don’t get me wrong. I love to multi-task. The pressure of handling multiple tasks at the same time, the sense of accomplishment when I’m done…
Here’s the thing, though. I try to multi-task only when I can afford to waste time or make mistakes. If time is of the essence, I focus on a single task at a time.
The reason for this is simple. Virtually any task requires a certain amount of concentration. My head needs to be in the right space. All the bits and pieces of the puzzle need to be in the front of my brain. More specifically, I need to calibrate my prefrontal cortex for the task.
When I switch to a different task, I have to do this calibration all over again. This is the overhead of context switching. What’s worse, my attention is divided between all my unfinished tasks. This leads not only to a slow-down, but to a higher error rate.
In Hebrew we have an expression: “para para”, which translates to “one cow at a time”. If you want something done right, focus on that one thing. One cow at a time.