Thriving in a 24-7 World: the truth about multitasking

Sports psychologist and Olympic athlete coach Peter Jensen says multitasking, or as he calls it "task-switching," isn't the answer.

'Multitasking doesn't work in terms of efficiency,' says sports psychologist and elite coach Peter Jensen

Sports psychologist and Olympic athlete coach Peter Jensen says multitasking, or as he calls it "task-switching," won't help you meet the growing demands of work or life. 3:21

Forget multitasking — it's not actually something you should try to get better at, says one author and elite athlete coach.

Research shows that we are living in a world of increasing demands with no shortage of distractions, and more and more individuals are feeling the pressure to do more with less time.

But sports psychologist and Olympic athlete coach Peter Jensen says multitasking, or as he calls it "task-switching," isn't the answer. 

"Multitasking doesn't work in terms of efficiency. It isn't efficient, because you're switching tasks," said Peter Jensen.

Peter Jensen has attended eight Olympic Games as a member of the Canadian team and has helped more than 70 Canadian athletes medal. (Supplied)

"You do one task, and then you come back, and you have to re-familiarize yourself with the next task," which is wasted effort, he said.

Jensen said research shows just 2.5 per cent of the population is actually more productive when simultaneously juggling multiple tasks, and that there is an inverse relationship between how productive a person thinks they are and how productive they actually are when it comes to multitasking. 

"In multitasking, you end up leaving a whole pile of things partly done, and that's very unsatisfying," said Jensen.

"The actual completion of a task is very satisfying to the brain, even if the task is not particularly pleasurable," he said.

Energy management vs time management

Jensen says a better strategy is to focus on managing your energy, since there will always only be 24 hours in a day. 

"There's a constant in that equation that doesn't change. You're going to steal time from sleep to get things done, and you're never going to pay that time back," he said.

Energy, on the other hand, is something that we can control by altering our rest, recovery, nutrition and exercise patterns. 

Jensen said you can improve your chances of success in your career and relationships by cutting out common energy drains, which include talking about things that lie outside of your control and being overly critical of your own performance.

"The voice in your head is not God. It's not factual. You're making that up," Jensen said.

"Our devices have had numerous, numerous upgrades, and it's time to upgrade the user," he said.

Peter Jensen will present his newest book, Thriving in a 24-7 World, at the Calgary Petroleum Club tonight.

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