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The morning I decided to write this article, I sat at my desk at Jotform and opened a Google document in one browser, then used another to queue up an email for later that day. While I waited for the latter to schedule (there’s usually a short lag), I popped into a calendar app and blocked out a couple of hours to focus on writing, and also updated an appointment with my trainer. Then, still riding an early morning motivational high, I silenced my devices and got to work.
It’s fitting, I thought at the time, that I was multitasking to prepare myself to write an article about that very thing. Today, the act of undertaking and balancing a variety of tasks simultaneously is increasingly considered to actually be bad for productivity, but I think the truth is more nuanced. After all, it’s entirely natural to focus on two things at once. Animals — from fish and octopuses to monkeys and pigeons — are multitaskers. Research from Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany has found, in fact, that pigeons do it even better than humans.
There may be a fine line between accomplishing several things simultaneously and being overcome by distractions, but in my experience, it’s possible to embrace both the benefits of multitasking and the importance of dedicating undivided attention to meaningful work — what I like to term “the big stuff.”