The world is speeding up. Or so it feels some days, doesn’t it?

Over the last 20+ years, since the advent of the internet, there’s a pervading desire to get more stuff done, more quickly in order to be productive and successful.

Image of young artist woman working on laptop. Blog by Lucy Stanyer Life Coach - Multi-tasking: Friend or Foe?

Multi-tasking used to be the buzz-word of productivity, however, in this blog I set out to examine the question Is multi-tasking a friend or foe?

With so many people are getting to the end of their tether and experiencing burnout and dissatisfaction with their lives and work, does doing more really give you what you want?

Multi-tasking, Single Focus or Habit Stacking?

There are different schools of thought on how to be productive.

A current trend is to focus on doing only one thing at a time. This is a surprisingly powerful way to become more productive.

On the surface, this seems counter intuitive. However, the attention we can give to what’s in front of us is limited. Every moment, our brain is flooded with information—sights, sounds, words, thoughts, to-dos, and more.

Multitasking studies show that when we think we’re multitasking, actually we aren’t. Our brains are rapidly switching between tasks rather than doing them at the same time.

Instead of having complete focus and energy into one task, we spread it thin, which prevents us from diving deep into any one of our tasks. 

Then we do a mediocre job of everything.

The neuroscience of doing one thing

Nancy K Napier writes in Psychology Today: “Research in neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music, to writing a text, or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain. 

“That start/stop/start process is rough on us. Rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds). It’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time, it can sap our energy.” 

If you want to test this for yourself, then you can try Nancy’s simple experiment in this article to prove the point.


Singletasking is better in virtually every way.

Our brains may initially resist working this way because we are used to the stimulation of multi-tasking.

Working on one thing at a time lets us dive deeper and do a better job at each task. This way we don’t have to spread our time, attention, and energy—the three ingredients of productivity—across many things at once.

Single-tasking lets us create more space in the moment to think deeper, make more connections, work creatively, and find more meaning in the task.

Is it ever good to multi-task?

While the science behind single-tasking is compelling and for many of our important work tasks, creative activities and activities that have risk, there are times when a bit of light multi-tasking can’t hurt.

For example, folding laundry and watching television at the same time. Or listening to a podcast while washing up or having bath. These can be useful ways to blend activities together.

However, the research shows that, on the whole, you’ll have a greater sense of clarity, achievement and ultimately be more effective if you do one thing at a time.

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