Sep 03, 2013

    Better to focus on one task at a time

    The Star/Asia News Network

    WITH the advent of technology, tiny processors are able to do multiple tasks at the same time.

    As a result, humans are also encouraged to multitask, both at work and at home. But are we supposed to be multitasking in the first place? Or are we better off focusing on one task at a time?

    When's the last time you were swarmed, with many things to be done in a short time? I experienced this recently: Just before the long holiday season, I had to settle a number of pending items.

    I had to multitask, but, in the end, I couldn't focus and failed on some of the tasks - I even lost my car keys when rushing to an appointment.


    Have you tried to have a decent conversation on the phone while trying to draft an important e-mail? Or tried to listen to important news on television while talking to your children?

    Would you succeed in getting both done without any errors in between? Not likely, for most people.

    In fact, research has been conducted to understand why this happens. Studies have shown that even when very simple tasks are involved, people find it difficult to perform them at the same time - especially when the tasks involve decision-making.


    It's not likely that we can focus on doing two things at once. Our brain is not like a computer chip.

    It's always better to do a single task at a time, especially when it comes to relationships.

    It's not worth trying to get more things done at the risk of alienating our loved ones.

    Recently, I saw a very interesting print on a T-shirt. It was a picture depicting the theory of human evolution. It showed an ape transforming into a modern human. But it didn't stop there. The human was shown to transform into a robot.

    It was meant to be a joke but I know several people who already are fast turning into "robots".

    I hope we are not turning into a robotic society where there is no emotion, feeling and soul in our lives. That would be a tragedy. But if we continue to let our busyness take over, that day may come sooner than we think.


    So, let's start focusing on things that really matter in life. Spend time with family before they leave us. Treat spouses with utmost respect.

    The list is long, but only we can put our family at the top of the priority list.

    I lost my car keys because I failed to focus on one task at a time in my quest to multitask. It could have resulted in a worse tragedy.

    Fortunately, it reminded me of a valuable life lesson: that it's always better to focus on one thing at a time.

    The writer is a father of four, a former senior leader in a well-known multinational corporation, and now a bestselling author. This article first appeared on The Star online.