Single tasking

I was clearing out Pocket recently, and this HBR piece on “pros and cons of doing one thing at a time” earned a few minutes.

I’m typically anti-multitasking, and this piece does a good job illustrating the basis for single tasking. The iPad is a great device for promoting single tasking, and I use it at this point exclusively as my primary device after my iPhone. It’s fast enough now to easily switch between apps, and the iPad Air is large enough that the software keyboard is actually fine for writing. But more than any of that, it helps me focus on a knocking out a single task and then moving on. Why that can be helpful:

Here’s the logic: Let’s say six people simultaneously give you six similar three-day, ASAP tasks, and you juggle them, spending a half day on each in turn.

Although you make good progress on each one as the days go by, you don’t complete any of the tasks until Day 16, when you finally finish the first two. You finish the next two on Day 17 and wrap up the last two on Day 18. But all of the assigners have had to wait a long time, and they’re all annoyed with you for taking so long.

If you attack the tasks sequentially, you finish the first one in just three days, the second in six, the third in nine, and so on. In fact, you complete five of the six earlier than if you had been working on them in parallel (the sixth one wraps at the end of Day 18, same as in the first scenario). So at least two of the assigners are extremely happy and impressed, and overall five of the six assigners are happier than if you had juggled their tasks.