It’s become a truism in productivity literature that we shouldn’t multitask. Constantly switching between projects, we’re told, wastes time, because we need to reorient ourselves whenever we change tasks.
In working with clients on productivity issues, I’ve noticed that, although some people understand intellectually that multitasking is bad, they have trouble kicking the habit. As hard as they try to zero in on a single project, they find their attention constantly jumping around — from writing that e-mail, to coding that computer program, to folding their socks, and so on.
In other words, for these people, multitasking isn’t really a choice — it’s more like something that happens to them. But why?