Is Uni-tasking underrated?


Google reported that  91 per cent of its Malaysian respondents are “multi-screening” with their smartphones, meaning that while watching TV, or working a laptop, Malaysians were at the VERY SAME TIME, using their phones.

The Malay Mail reported this as Malaysians being champion multi-taskers, but I look at it as a negative, and instead view it as indication of just how easily distracted we are.

It used to be that multi-tasking was a prized asset in an employee, but as a regular cari-makan working adult, I have to say that trying NOT to multi-task is getting harder by the day. A brief boring moment in a call, a e-mail alert while you’re writing a document, a phone call in the middle of a presentation–trying to focus on ONE thing at ONE time is HARD.

And most of my best work comes from uni-tasking. In fact, all the science leads to conclude that focusing on a single task leads to better performance in a shorter amount of time. Multi-tasking is a myth that only about 2% of the population can do at any one time, the greatest among us are those that focus on a single core activity at once.

And uni-tasking isn’t just for better performance, it leads to better satisfaction.

The only real time I uni-task is when I’m gaming, when I’m playing DOTA I naturally turn off all distractions and focusing purely on winning a game, every distraction I get while gaming is both irritating and quickly addressed. I don’t leave half-way through a game to view my facebook feed or read e-mail, I’m 100% committed to killing the enemy.

And do I enjoy gaming–you bet.

Is that because of focus–yes!

Or so says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounce cheeks-sent-me-high), who authored one of the most influential books on the subject–flow.

Flow is that feeling you get when you’re deeply immersed into an activity, we all have at least one of them, or at the very least Sex. That one thing you do, when all other distractions are immediately switched off, and you’re focused on it. In fact, you’re so focused on the matter,that you lose sense of time, and even your sense of being–it’s the feeling of flow.

Some get it from gaming, others from some other activity, but think of the last time you were so thoroughly engaged in something you lost sense of time. That’s the feeling of flow–and nobody is multi-tasking while they’re flowing.

In a sense, smartphones and all the technological gadgetry that surrounds us make it impossible for us to achieve flow, and that’s a negative.

Maybe it’s time we put down our smartphones, and start looking for employees who can uni-task, because let’s face it, life is better that way.


Astound us with your intelligence

  • Usually an employee who can multitask is a person who have more skills compared to other employees.

    And the best employee is the employee who can multitask problems, not jobs but at the same time, his performance does not become static and he is not stress.

    Until now, I have never meet that kind of stressfull IT person who can multitask-solving different problem and yet does not stress. I am often multi-task different problems, and I am stressfull almost everyday – and that is negative.

    But then again, in Malaysia, some company does not care about prevention of problems, that is why it is stressfull, not because multi-tasking, but because some problems can be prevented – only if there is budget, and willingness of other people.

    • Most of the time the stress is due to a lack of performance, and the lack of performance is due to the multi-tasking nature.

      Most people have more than one job to do over a week or month, but time-boxing each individual task is more important than trying to do everything simultaneously.

      however, my main point is even if you focus on one task, it’s hard to keep that focus for too long in todays distraction heavy world. Focus requires discipline, but I think it produces more effective outcomes.