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Supertaskers: How Some People Task-Switch Faster and How You Can Too

image“When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually multiswitching.” — Michael Harris

2 percent of the population are supertaskers.  They have extraordinary multitasking ability.

The rest of us struggle with multitasking.  And some of us even have Strategy Application Disorder.

Keep in mind that multitasking is really task-switching in disguise.

In the book, Your Daily Brain: 24 Hours in the Life of Your Brain, Marbles: The Brain Store with Garth Sundem share ways you can fake being a supertasker.

Some Monotaskers Have Strategy Application Disorder

Those who struggle with multitasking might have Strategy Application Disorder.  Yeah, it’s a thing.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“In fact, there really is a medical term to describe those of us who can’t multi-task.  It’s called strategy application disorder, and it’s a kind of frontal lobe dysfunction in which people who ‘disorganization, absentmindedness, and problems with planning and decision making in everyday life despite normal performance on traditional neuropsychological tests,’ according to research published by Paul Burgess in the journal Psychological Research in 2000.”

Supertaskers are Different

Supertaskers have extraordinary multitasking ability.  They are also rare.  How rare? 2 percent of the population.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“On the opposite end of this spectrum is a group of people recently identified as supertaskers.  According to a 2015 study by University of Utah psychologist David Strayer, just as the monotasking brain is different from most brains, the supertasking brain is too–exactly 2 percent of us have areas of the anterior cingulate cortex and posterior fronto-polar prefrontal cortex that make us able to do many things at once.”

Most of Us are Lousy at Multitasking

It’s not an IQ thing.  Switching our focus can limit our effectiveness.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“The rest of us 98 percent my have exactly the same brainpower as supertaskers in terms of IQ and other goodies, but when we add task A to task B, we take longer and perform worse than if we had focused on task A and then transitioned completely to task B.”

Successful Multitasking is Task-Switching in Disguise

The trick to multi-tasking is not doing two things at the same time.  It’s actually switching between tasks so quickly that it appears like we’re doing two things at once.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“The trick to successful multitasking is not, as you might expect, splitting your mind into two sections, each in charge of monitoring and completing a demanding task. 

The trick is switching the brain’s attention between tasks so quickly that it looks like you’re doing two things at once.  You start with your spotlight on task A and swivel the light to task B, moving back and forth so quickly that it appears you can spotlight at the same time.  Psychologists call this task switching.”

4 Ways You Can Fake Being a Supertasker

You pay a heavy penalty when you task switch.  But, with the right techniques you can fake being a supertasker.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“When you switch from one demanding task to another, it takes time to get oriented–you pay a time and/or an accuracy penalty, and both tasks suffer.  That is, unless you’re a supertasker

There’s debate whether you can actually change your brain enough to go from being an average-tasker to a supertasker, but there are certainly rules that can help you fake it.”

1. Make Cognitively Demanding Tasks Less Demanding

One way to task-switch faster is to make demanding tasks less demanding.  For example, if you can simplify a task or make it more automatic, then you can reduce the demands on your attention.  This is the power of checklists.  They help you turn things into routines so you can move up the cognitive stack.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“If you can make cognitively demanding tasks less cognitively demanding, you’ll pay a lower penalty when you combine them.  It makes sense: if packing lunches is automatic, you’ll be able to do it while cooking an omelet.  If you have to think about lunches, it takes away from your ability to think about the omelet. 

By making any demanding task more automatic, you reduce its demands on your attention, and so have more attention for a second (and third and fourth …) task.”

2. Pick Tasks That Require Different Parts of the Brain

If you pick tasks that are far apart in terms of areas of the brain, you can fake supertasking.  For example, you might find a motor task that doesn’t compete with a cognitive task.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“Pick tasks that use faraway areas of the brain–say, a motor task like flipping the omelet along with a cognitive task like remembering which kid likes which snacks.  If two tasks are far enough apart in your brain, it’s almost like you’re not even doing two things at once.”

3. Make It Easy to Pick Back Up Where You Left Off

Practice ways to remember where you left off, so you can pick your task back up quickly.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“Practice ‘fixing’ tasks in your mind.  For example, if you can remember exactly where you left off making an omelet, you can learn to come back to exactly that point without paying the ‘switching penalty’ that would otherwise be involved in reorienting yourself. 

Practice saying ‘I am chopping onions’ or ‘When I come back, I will add cheese’ before switching to another task, and it should make it easier to switch back to the omelet later.”

4. Cue When You Need to Switch Tasks

Simple kitchen timers can work wonders.  Give yourself a cue when it’s time to switch back to another task.

Via Your Daily Brain:

“Outsource the monitoring that tells you when to switch tasks.  If you’re worrying about when you need to flip the omelet while packing lunches, packing lunches is going to suffer. 

The trick is called task cuing–set your kitchen timer to remind you when the omelet is ready to flip (cue when you should switch tasks). 

If you are helping to bring your strategy-application-disordered love one up to speed, task cuing might look like an ongoing narrative that reminds this person what he or she should be doing at any given second.  Try it, your loved one will totally thank you.”

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in the 2 percent of supertaskers.

For the rest of us, we’re lousy at multi-tasking.  But take solace in the fact that we do our tasks better when we focus on the task at hand.

And effective multi-tasking is simply switching tasks more effectively.

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The post Supertaskers: How Some People Task-Switch Faster and How You Can Too appeared first on Sources of Insight.

Sources of Insight

Master Faster

image“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” – Bruce Lee

You can always do things faster.

If you can master doing things faster, you can improve your productivity and get more out of work and life.

The trick is to identify which things are worth doing faster, and then find the strategies and tactics that help you actually do them faster.

In the book, The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day, David Horsager shares why it’s important to do things faster and ways to master being faster.

Do Things Faster

One of the easiest ways to get more out of your day is to do things faster.

Via The Daily Edge:

“In business and life, there is a tendency to overlook the obvious.  This might not apply anywhere else as strongly as it does to productivity.

Lost in the collections of tips and techniques is one of the most straightforward ways to get more out of your day — do things faster.”

The Value of Doing Things Faster

Doing things faster can help you accomplish more in less time.  This can help you make space for other things you’d like to explore, experiment, or execute.

Doing things faster can also help you build momentum.  Rather than get bogged down or overwhelmed, you can outpace your To-Do list.

Via The Daily Edge:

“Creating a clear workspace change my productivity dramatically, but it wasn’t until I understood the value of doing things faster, than I gained a significant increase in productivity. 

I have also learned to communicate with my team about the delicate balance between work quality and efficiency.  It has change my thought process when hiring for certain positions as well.”

“By learning to do something twice as fast, you make it possible to do twice as much.  So keep sharpening your skills and you will find you’re giving yourself the gift of several extra hours each week.”

You’re Working as Fast as You Know How

Some people think they are working as fast as they can.  But many times they are only working as fast as they know how.

You can almost always find somebody who knows how to do what you are trying to do, much faster, and you can learn from them.

Via The Daily Edge:

“Many may groan and think, ‘We’re working as hard and as fast as we can.’  But the truth is that they’re working as hard and as fast as they know how

Executives may feel as though members of their team are not working efficiently.  Let’s look at this issue from an individual perspective  as well as from a team perspective.  You might find room for improvement in both!”

Learn to Do Your Common Tasks Faster

A great place to start doing things faster is to review your common tasks or routines and look for ways to do them faster.

For example, if you read a lot, then learn how to read faster.  If you type a lot, then learn how to type faster.

Via The Daily Edge:

“There are methods and techniques for everyday tasks that would save precious time.  Perhaps someone on your staff needs a speed reading class or advanced typing practice.  The average employee could save several hours a week by learning to do their common tasks faster.”

Scope Out Topics

Identify some skills or topics that would be worth learning how to do faster.  There is always room for improvement, but find the topics that would pay off the most.  If you need ideas, ask a colleague that seems to speed through things with skill.

Via The Daily Edge:

“Scope out topics. Speed reading, typing, computer shortcuts, systemizing techniques and research skills are a few areas any businessperson could benefit from studying.  There are probably dozens of others in your industry.  To find them, research topics online or better yet, find a successful colleague who excels in this area and ask him or her for ideas.”

Hire it Done

Outsource the lower value tasks in your day, where you can, to spend more time in higher-value tasks.  You can hire help and outsource much easier in today’s world with simple apps that give you access to people that will do short-burst work for you.

Via The Daily Edge:

“Hire it done.  You might get things done faster if you hire part of it out.  Maybe you need to know more about a new technology but don’t have time to do the research.  Hire someone from a website like or to do the research for your review.”

Find a Mentor

One of the best ways to learn how to do things faster and to make profound progress in your productivity is to find the right mentor.  The right mentor can give you strategies, tactics, and feedback to help you improve.

Via The Daily Edge:

“Find a mentor. Maybe you have a friend who has found a successful morning routine at the office, or maybe you have a colleague who has streamlined the same task that you need to do on a regular basis.  Ask for help.  I have found that people are honored, not offended by such questions.”

On a personal note, one of the things that’s helped me write blog posts for years is that I set a goal of writing posts in 20 minutes or less.

This simple little rule of thumb has helped me learn how to write blog posts faster and not get bogged down, and to learn what’s truly valued versus what is not.

What would you learn how to do faster that will instantly give you hours back this week?

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The post Master Faster appeared first on Sources of Insight.

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