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A couple of years ago as a newbie in film industry I was frustrated with the endless incoming line of new tasks.
Each new one overwriting the previous one in importance. Feels like we have to work on multiple things simultaneously.
If you look up multitasking everyone says, “just don’t do it”. “Create a work environment where you don’t have to multitask.”
But is it possible for us in film industry?
When I dug deeper, I found that modern-day researchers say our mind is simply not capable of “multitasking”. It can focus on only one thing at a time.
What it can do though, is “switch-tasking”.
To switch from one task to another. But this process eats up enormous resources.
Researchers say it takes heavy burden on our attention, focus, and memory. The mind needs time to realign itself for the new task at hand.
And it doesn’t take split seconds, but rather minutes. Most sources say it takes up to 15 minutes to regain full focus.
So this is why everyone everywhere will suggest that you build a distraction-free work environment. Where you don’t have anything or anyone disturbing your single task focus.
But i had to realize, it’s just not possible for us while shooting a film. (not even in the rental house)
We don’t have 15 minutes to realign our minds to get back to full focus after a quick note from a colleague or a newer, more important task.
The good news is… switch tasking as any other skill, can be improved!
But there is some twisted logic in practicing it. You shouldn’t actually practice switch tasking, but have to get proficient at single-tasking instead.
What we don’t realize is we are pretty bad at even single-tasking. A new thought rises every minute, or we hear something interesting and we suddenly quit focusing on the task at hand.
Certain sports can help you train to focus on one thing. There are applications nowadays that train your attention as well. And of course, there is my favorite 🙂 Meditation!
But there are further complications. To train your single-task focus you will need to exercise the skill regularly to improve.
It is very easy to get discouraged by the first results you get, because it really is a hard thing to do.
It will take weeks or months before you see measurable improvement.
But this skill is so essential to our job, you actually slow down your career by not practicing it.
As you get better at focusing on a single task, your switch time to another single focus task will start to improve.
It also does worth to practice memory or quick and efficient note taking skills along with single-task focus.
Because the second most difficult thing with switch-tasking is:
to be able to quickly stop doing something, and not forgetting to return to it afterward.
And not just return to it, but to remember where you left off, what the original request was exactly, etc.
This is where most of the time we drop the ball. But this topic is for another time.
For now, look for a sport, app, or meditation technique that you like, and start practicing.
We can’t change our environment for a disturbance-free one, but we can master switch tasking skills.