“The ability to perform Deep Work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” - Cal Newton
Although switch costs may be relatively small, sometimes just a few tenths of a second per switch, they can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. Thus, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error. Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time.
According to Meyer, Evans and Rubinstein, converging evidence suggests that the human "executive control" processes have two distinct, complementary stages. They call one stage "goal shifting" ("I want to do this now instead of that") and the other stage "rule activation" ("I'm turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this"). Both of these stages help people to, without awareness, switch between tasks. That's helpful. Problems arise only when switching costs conflict with environmental demands for productivity and safety.
People who frequently use many types of media at once, or heavy media multitaskers, performed significantly worse on simple memory tasks.
...multitasking isn’t efficient. We know there are costs of task switching. So that might be an argument to do less media multitasking – at least when working on a project that matters academically or professionally. If you’re multitasking while doing something significant, like an academic paper or work project, you’ll be slower to complete it and you might be less successful.
'It's easy to fall into the trap of multitasking. In that case, it seems like there is little real progress and this leads to a feeling of inadequacy. Concentration decreases, which causes stress. Prolonged stress hinders thinking and memory,'
Social media is really nothing but multitasking, with several parallel plots and issues. You might end up reading the news or playing a game recommended by a friend. From the brain's perspective, social media only increases the load.
There’s no single description of what constitutes a deep break, but here are some useful heuristics from my own experience:
- Deep breaks should not turn your attention to a target that might generate a professional or social obligation that you cannot completely fulfill during the break (e.g., glancing at an email inbox or social media feed).
- Deep breaks should not turn your attention to a target that your mind associates with time-consuming distraction rituals (e.g., many people have a set “cycle” of distracting web sites they visit when they surf that has become so ingrained that looking at one site sends their mind the message it’s time to look at them all).
- Deep breaks should not turn your attention to a related, but not quite the same, professional task (e.g., if you’re trying to write a report, and you turn your attention to quickly editing an unrelated report).
- Deep breaks should not turn your attention to a topic that is complicated, stressful and/or something that will sometime soon need a lot of your attention.
- Deep breaks should not usually last more than 10 – 15 minutes, with some exceptions, such as for meals.