Drive-By Book Reviews: Myth Of Multitasking, Jumpstart Your Workspace

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new drive by book reviewIt’s been a while since I’ve done a book review. Since my policy is only to review books I’d recommend, sometimes it takes a bit of time to get to the good ones.

This week, I’ve got two and the theme revolves around productivity:

So, let’s dive right in…

The Myth of Multitasking | Dave Crenshaw

What’s it all about? The title pretty much says it all, the book explores the problem with trying to multitask and reveals the dark underbelly of what’s become a badge of honor in the modern business world…it doesn’t work.

In fact, not only do we learn that multitasking doesn’t work, we also discover there is no such thing as multitasking. Crenshaw shows how the brain is really only capable to focusing on one thing at a time, so what we’re really doing is what he calls “switchtasking” or jumping violently from one task to another.

The problem with multitasking or switchtasking, according to Crenshaw, is that every time you switch, there is a bit of ramp-up time to get back into what you were doing before you switched or to initiate a new task. All those little moments add up over the course of a day and literally rob you of a serious chunk of time.

Better, he says, to schedule or batch your time to be able to stay focused on one thing for longer periods of time and let people know not to interrupt you until you’re done or unless it’s a “genuine” emergency.

I happen to strongly agree with Dave’s argument and the book offers sounds advice and steps to take to remedy the problem.

My only challenge with the book was that it was peppered with a lot of pull-quotes and sidebar stats that were fun and informative, but also momentarily pulled you out of the main content and required you to then find your place again, which seems to go against the the central premise of the book.

Why is it different? Two things. One, the book is written as a parable, telling the story of a CEO who worked with a coach to come to grips with the reality of multitasking, then overcome it. It took me a few pages to get into it (I tend to like the cold hard facts, fast and furious), but the parable did a nice job of illustrating the challenges and questions in a way that will resonate with certain people, and probably not with others.

Two, it’s short, like 140 pages in small format. Which makes it a really fast and easy read.

Who needs it now? Anyone who’s living the multitasking myth and needs a bit of convincing that it really does harm, more than help, your ability to get more done.

Jumpstart Your Workspace: Small changes that improve focus and shorten your work day | Glen Stansberry

What’s it all about? This book is actually a nice compliment to Crenshaw’s book in that it focuses on creating changes to your physical workspace and environment to allow you to be more focused, enjoy your work and get more done.

Why is it different? What’s intereting about Glen’s book is that…

  • It’s a very short and easy read. If you thought Crenshaw’s book was a fast read, Stansberry’s whole book is only 26 pages and it’s one of the early releases from new e-book publisher Web Warrior Tools. And, if you’re wondering whether you can get any serious value in only 26 pages, the answer is yes, at least for me it was.
  • The advice is very sensible and doable (it doesn’t tell you to make massive sweeping changes that nobody’ll ever actually do),
  • It speaks to not only your physical workspace, but your “psychic” workspace. So, when Stansberry talks about clutter, he starts with your desk, but then moves to your brain. When he talks about your personal environment, he addresses things as simple as hygiene and exercise, both of which can have real impacts on your ability to get things done. As someone who is a big believer in the cross-impact of lifestyle on work, this approach resonated with me.
  • It includes links to tools. One of the huge benefits of the e-book format is that it can link directly to any tools you recommended right from the document. So, when, in the “tools” chapter, Glen recommends certain applications that remind you to take breaks, the names of the apps are linked directly to the pages where you can learn more or download them, making it more likely that you’ll actually follow the advice.

Who needs it now? Anyone looking for a very simple, yet straightforward collection of productivity tips, tools and strategies that go beyond the desktop and get into the bigger picture lifestyle aspects, too.

Well, that wraps up today’s Drive-By Book Reviews. If you’d like to recommend a book to be reviewed or inquire about about sending me a book to review, please e-mail me at jonathan at jonathanfields dot com.

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12 responses

12 responses to “Drive-By Book Reviews: Myth Of Multitasking, Jumpstart Your Workspace”

  1. Thank you for the review in brief, Jonathan.

    Your readers can also do a free online exercise that illustrates the impact of switchtasking, at:

    http://www.davecrenshaw.com/exercise.html

  2. Thanks Jonathan! You’ve summed up the ebook better than probably I could 🙂

    Dave, I’ll have to check out your book as well… sounds fantastic.

  3. […] out the rest of Jonathan’s review to read a real-world review (without my personal biases of the ebook. (Because I’ll just tell […]

  4. Justin says:

    The one I was really interested in was the Myth of Multitasking, and I don’t even need to read it because your description was good enough. I have made a spontaneous promise to never “switchtask” ever again. Probably.

  5. @Jonathan Thanks for the information about the book, and…

    #Dave, the book looks very interesting.

    Last month I wrote a blog piece talking about the same issue of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking ruins the efficiency of a business and is a stress on our human resources. I talk about that more in my post “The 40% Productivity Loss: Wasting Time and Energy in the New Economy.” See:
    http://simplesustainability.blogspot.com/2008/07/40-productivity-loss-wasting-time-and.html

    I’ll definitely move this book up high on my to-read list.

  6. […] Go to the author’s original blog: Drive-By Book Reviews: Myth Of Multitasking, Jumpstart Your Workspace […]

  7. Jess says:

    I’d just like to say that I enjoyed these reviews- I’m really encouraged to go and read the books now 🙂 Thank you.

  8. Tabs says:

    Thanks for the review, my interest peaked at the thought of psychic clutter, I just spent the day rekindling my love for feng shui so this is a welcome validation. I will have to check out the book.

    -Tabs

  9. Brandon Watkins:
    I liked your post. I’d be interested to see examples where your suggestions were applied in the workplace.

  10. Jonathan,

    Thanks for sharing these books.

    Multitasking may more appropriately be called switch tasking as Dave points out, but mothers invented it long before the corporate gave it a name. There’s no way I could have successfully raised 4 children, worked full time and finished my doctorate and many other accomplishments without switch tasking.

    When it comes to the working with client in a corporate environment I agree that you need to focus your attention on her in communication.

    When you’re driving down the freeway about to drop kids off at school, you need to switch tasks rapidly to be safe on the road and avert the fight that’s brewing in the back seat.

  11. […] – bookmarked by 6 members originally found by frankie0410 on 2008-10-18 Drive-By Book Reviews: Myth Of Multitasking, Jumpstart Your Workspace […]