Multi-tasking conjures up many images in one’s mind. Generally, it’s one of somebody having five arms doing all these different activities at one time. Rather than being a conscious action, it often happens through the necessity to be all things to all people in this fast-paced world we live in.
Research suggests that there is no such thing as multi-tasking. Even if you are doing multiple things at once, what you are doing is focusing on one thing in one moment, and an alternative thing in another moment. The switching between the activities is said to be counter-productive.
In this TED Talk, Tim Harford looks at multi-tasking in relation to creativity. Using scientists and creatives in his examples, he contends that “slow motion multi-tasking” can be very effective.
Tim shares three reasons why this is important and how it can help solve problems.
Ideas from one context can be taken to another context
How could looking at an apple help understand that the world is a sphere rather than a flat surface as it was once thought to be? Moving an apple around in your hand and noticing how as you do, you start to see more and more of a bruise as it comes into full sight can be taken to a different context. Seeing a boat on the horizon slowly come into view from the top of the mast initially to seeing more and more of it. With it comes the realisation that the world could indeed be round.
Learning to do one thing well can provide skills in other areas
Using a research example where one group of ophthalmology students were given art history lessons, Tim shares how those students performed better at diagnosing eye conditions as compared to a control group.
Various skills give the ability to look at problems from a different perspective along with an open mindedness to do so. Leading to creative thinking from those different perspectives.
Providing assistance when stuck
If there is a single-minded focus, it can be quite easy to become stuck on an idea. Often this is thinking through the same idea repeatedly without any progress being made. Having a separate project or topic to that you are excited about can help. By shifting focus, the negative loop pattern that has been created in the mind loosens up and is given the space to have solutions appear in their own time.
Why is this relevant? The reality is that everyone multi-tasks to different extents in many areas of their lives. Whether it’s at work, in the classroom or at home. The perception of whether you think it is good, bad or in-different may set you up for a mindset that may not be optimal.
This talk gives a different perspective that is a valuable one to be considered. Feel free to watch the full 17-minute TED talk here to learn more.
Want to watch even more TED Talks we have shared. Check them all out here.