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I'm a student and hoping to be an entrepreneur. Besides study I spend most of my time working on software development and recently thinking of organizing a team to work on the field of software and embedded system. I've experimented with single and multitasking with my work. Here are some issues I got from my experiment.

Single tasking:

Pros - Helps to concentrate on specific task. - I feel satisfaction/eager to work.

Cons - Other works get stuck heavily, thus make me anxious. - Work completion time length (somehow) prolongs very long.

Multitasking:

Pros - Work time length takes what it's needed. - Can cover all the pending work.

Cons - Work completion time takes long, that makes me anxious too. - Don't get much satisfaction as I have to slice my time to many works.

Now, what should be right way to manage works? Should it be single tasking or multitasking? What what modification to be needed? Thanks!

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Multitasking usually will work better with females (it has got to do something with their brains operating differenyly), whereas for men it is usually more efficient to do singl-tasking. I never finish anything if I try to do multi-tasking but can achieve high results if I concentrate on a single thing. –  Qba-th'Intrepid Nov 1 '12 at 23:20
    
The most important information about human multitasking is that it DOES NOT EXIST. Someone just blindly used a computer-science concept to describe a human phenomenon formerly called "distraction". -- As you said, the advantage of concentration is that it helps you get the work done and feel good; sometimes so good you don't even notice the time is running. On the other hand, distraction makes the work slow and ruins your mood. -- Now excuse me, what exactly was the original question? I got kind of distracted... uhm... multitasking... –  Viliam Búr May 21 '13 at 11:55
    
@Qba-th'Intrepid: See this answer on Skeptics SE: skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/4158/8543 –  Viliam Búr May 21 '13 at 13:16

5 Answers 5

To overcome your cons on single tasking I would recommend to use the Pomodoro Technique. By time boxing your tasks your are more focussed on getting al your work done.

Unfortunately, if you don't plan your tasks in front you automatically start multitasking again and you will be less satisfied with the outcome of your day.

In the end I like single tasking better but its more work to really do single tasking. That is, i think, the hardest part of single tasking.

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Multitasking may feel more efficient, but research has shown that it will actually reduce your efficiency. This is because multi-tasking is more like rapid switching between single tasks and your brain needs time to focus at each task switch. More on the multi-tasking myth from a computer science point of view can be found here

So it's best to do as much single tasking as possible. However, a big disadvantage of single-tasking is that you can lose track of your other assignments. Also, if you are a perfectionist you may spend more time on the task than is really necessary. Therefore you should start your work by prioritizing and planning your tasks (the GTD technique will be helpful here). Then start with the most important or urgent task, but keep track of your time (for example with the Pomodoro technique). After about 18 - 40 minutes (the exact time is different for every person and every task) you will notice that it has become harder to focus on the task. This is the time to take a short break. After the break start a new task or continue the old one, depending on the planning you made.

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There's slow thinking and fast thinking. Fast thinking is the aspect of your brain that handles reflexes, things like how you can type/write without looking at keyboard/paper. Slow thinking is pretty much everything that requires your focus.

Now your brain can only really focus on one thing at a time. Here's a really simple trick. Try calculating 158141+111110 in your head. You'll find that you have to put one number in your head, take it out, add it to the next. Add a couple more digits in front and it becomes increasingly stressful.

Now write that down and you can do it almost instantly.

The trick to multitasking is similar to dealing with a computer that can only store one thing at a time in its RAM. You have to store it somewhere for a while, and it takes time to load and unload it.

I don't think there's really a right or wrong answer to this. I'd say the ideal is to focus on only one thing at a time, because there's significant overhead to changing focus. If you really want to change focus, make sure that you can immediately get back to what you were previously focusing on. For example, you can't watch a movie and have a non-movie discussion with someone at the same time.

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Based on my experience single tasking is a lot more effective and efficient for me. It keeps me focused on tasks and getting things done, whereas multi-tasking makes me unproductive and I easily get stressed. One thing I do when working is listing all my tasks and organizing it depending on priority level. This way I can do tasks that need to be finished by the end of the day.

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Single-tasking works best for me, but it's important that it be part of a routine. That said, it also helps, when I am working sequentially on different tasks, to change the physical location where I am working in between those different tasks. Sequential single-tasking > (even continuous) partial attention.

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