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SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best by Laura Stack

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Chapter 13. The Harder I Work, the Behinder I Get!

SUPERCOMPETENT Hero Thinking:

I can only do one thing at a time, so I limit my multi-tasking to maximize my productivity.

SIMPLY COMPETENT Zero Thinking:

If I do a whole bunch of things at once, I can get more done!

Multitasking has become a beloved word in professional circles.

However, the most recent data on this concept suggests we should take a closer look. A study in multitasking by Cornell University psychology professor Morton Christiansen and NIH research fellow Christopher Conway found people can multitask fairly well when they use different senses to complete tasks. For example, you can drive while keeping an eye on traffic and listening to the radio at the same time, or chop up vegetables while you're talking on the phone. However, when similar stimuli compete for the same senses at the same time—such as two people talking to you at once—jams our perceptual frequencies. This is why, as parents, we always intuitively say to our children, "One at a time, please." So if you're trying to pay attention to two different technologies at once, such as a phone call and e-mail, your brain slows to a crawl, and you drain a ton of energy trying to concentrate.

Multitasked to Overwhelmed

Let's look at the typical champion multitasker's day, based on an actual report by a colleague who works from home:

Wake up; get ready; watch the news; go to the office; fax the counter-signed agreement back to the client; pay the water bill; make a cup ...

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