One Reason To Completely Disconnect

There’s a long standing question about the validity of multitasking. Is it real or is it a myth?

unplugged businessman

In “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again,” NPR correspondent Jon Hamilton highlights the work of Neuroscientist Earl Miller who says that you are NOT. You’re simply switching focus between tasks very quickly. While Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo from McGill University says that you CAN multitask, but to what end, he doesn’t yet know.

Of course, the real debate of merit, in my life, is the one that happens between my mother and I. She swears by multitasking and I think it’s a villain. Regardless of who is right or wrong, there are moments when it pays to completely disconnect. If we can multi-task, then we can’t multi-task all the time. And there is a real benefit to moments of complete focus. I call it “building a fire.”

When your ideas have a chance to grow in a protected setting and build on top of each other, you carry the potential for seeing things in a way that they have never been seen before. You start with a spark, and then you nurse it to a full flame until it’s strong enough to warm the house.

Taking 30 minutes to brainstorm, but answering 10 unrelated phone calls throughout the session can weaken your strategy development.  I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. When you’re interrupted you have to refocus yourself and that costs you time. On the other hand, I have watched the best ideas come to life at the end of a short but focused session.

Sometimes it pays to completely disconnect, to focus on the one and let your mind reset.  Disconnecting can protect your sanity.

Maybe you need 30 minutes of working out, 30 minutes of eating or a private moment in the bathroom without a phone call, text message or email. The world will be there when you get back — ready for you to multitask or switch focus quickly (depending on who you believe).

If you disconnect and refresh, then you just may find yourself a little smarter, faster and more effective when you plug back in.

Unplugged Photo via Shutterstock


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

5 Reactions
  1. I would even advocate disconnecting for longer periods of time while on vacation. I know too many people who never really disconnect due to the omnipresence of wifi and cell phone coverage.

    • I agree, you need longer times to disconnect (I do) or a vacation just doesn’t feel like a vacation — and we don’t reset like we need to. But I know too many business owners who can’t even make it through a meal with some undivided attention….

  2. Sharon Gilmour-Glover

    Ms. J I could not agree with you more, or state it more eloquently. I do agree that we have the ability to switch focus quickly and that’s great for those times we really need it. But I agree even more with your advice to focus, really focus on one initiative without interruptions. In the end, that drives sustainable productivity. More importantly, it’s the birthplace of creativity and innovation.

    I also advocate unplugging. In fact, I’m heading into a 4 day weekend of no work, no email, no computer.

    Thanks for the thoughtful advice!

  3. Overstimulation is a growing issue, not only for performance/production, but for health. Multitasking mental states erode your ability to stay focused. It is a matter of conditioning and resource allocation. We run experiential simulations for groups and many people lack the ability to stay focused on tasks requiring full attention for more than a minute. The development of focus has many benefits. Just think about ADHD. The kids will get medicated but never given the opportunity to develop focus. We refer to the rapid and random thoughts that run across someone’s awareness as the runaway thought train. These thoughts have superficial content but lack cognitive value. They also keep many people awake at night perpetuating the infinite loop of thought.
    Understanding the difference between contextual and non-contextual multitasking is very helpful for professionals. Be well, PQ – Human Sustainability Institute