Multitasking has been my enemy for as long as I can remember, I just didn't know it at the time. The concept of multitasking is fantastic. You get to work on 3 or 4 things all at the same time and they are all going to get done at the same time and you will be just that much more awesome for it. Why would that be so wrong?
Well. Because it's probably not how it's going to go down. Particularly in this day and age with an enormous amount of distractions freely available on the internet and on your phone.
Some time ago I was waiting for the delivery guy with a very important package. And it was raining that day, so from my bedroom where my awesome command station is, I couldn't hear the door or much of anything. So, for the first time in years I unplugged my laptop and took it to my gaming chair in the living room, and I waited.
I Had a few bugs on some sites I needed to fix that day. I also created a few Google Analytics filters that I had been wanting to implement for some time. Just me and my laptop. Not even an external mouse. I used the laptop the way it was intended to be used when it was first designed. 9 hours later the delivery guy shows up and I go back into my room and plug everything back in. 15 inch laptop monitor and my 23 inch external co-existing. And, nothing kind of happened for the rest of the day. I had Netflix on my large monitor, and my IDE on my laptop for the rest of the night.
It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.
Goodbye Second Monitor
I'm currently only using one monitor when doing work. It has made the biggest difference in my personal work life. And this is a more recent "revelation" on my part if you will. In college we only worked on single monitors. And it was a good thing. Distractions were kept to a minimum.
In my jobs and at home I have solely been using dual monitors for years and years, under the assumption that I am so busy that I need this other screen to look at, like the mighty chameleon and it's separately mobile eyes.
I came to realize that I'm not running a resurrected dinosaur amusement park where I need to keep track of mischievous raptors. I'm either writing content for a website, or staring at a code editor, on one monitor. And normally a movie on the other.
While I can surely type words while watching a clip on YouTube, the words will be different than what I would have typed had I not been watching YouTube and at about 30% speed. A single monitor kind of slows my mind down just enough so that I can get a bigger grasp at what I'm currently doing. The results are much better at the end. Work on one project, finish it. Close the window. Open the next one. That's currently my pattern, and it's definitely paying off more. Not to say that dual monitors don't have their place. But only on occasion am I looking at both screens every other second. That mainly occurs when designing a new project, and I need to stare at my drawings that I made the night before at 2am. But that's not the norm. Even as I write this, I'm staring at only this screen while The Doors play on the other screen.
There's Always Room For Hilarious News Audio Remixes
Make time for the randomness of the internet. There's some stuff I need to read and see daily, because it's entertaining and because I like to discuss it with my human counterparts. I do this when I first wake up, because I am in no state to do anything else during that time. Save work for after coffee. And I also do it at 2am, or whenever I go to bed, because at this point I'm tired of working and running on fumes. It probably takes me 30 minutes total before I'm bored of the interwebs and decide I need to get to work or fall asleep.
I've had plenty of people tell me that they're fantastic at multitasking and that they can get 8 things done all at once without thinking about it. And that's the thing, that they genuinely believe that. I just wonder..how much better would their work be if they tried..not doing that?
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.