The Creative Difference Between Multitasking and Multi-Focus

August Birch
Jan 9, 2019 · 5 min read

One of these is the creator’s Kryptonite — the other, a golden opportunity

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The Difference Between Multitasking and Multi-Focus

Yep, we’ve all heard it. We know it. It’s science. We can’t do two things at once. Even Mom tells us so. Multitasking is dead. We’ve got to buckle-down. The days of the ultra-hustler are over. Multitasking is for the weak-willed and easily-distracted. All those squirrel-brains out there.

They say if we multi-task it doubles the time it would take to do each task individually. That multitasking is

Well, not quite.

Turns-out the brain can do two things at once. We can actually work on a lot of things at once. We can make dinner and listen to a podcast. We can walk and chew gum (well, some of us can), we can drive and meditate. We sing and shower. We can run, talk, and listen — simultaneously.

Multitasking is quite real and here to stay.

What we can’t do, what we could never do — is multi-focus.

The conscious mind can only focus on one thing at a time. It’s the way we’re wired, folks. Sorry ‘bout it. However, there is a caveat, which is why multitasking is such a goldmine for creatives. Our subconscious (or unconscious) mind can work on all kinds of stuff at once.

The subconscious puts ideas together from multiple sources. It collects information for weeks (or years) and spits out an answer when the conditions are right. The subconscious is always watching and paying attention, even when the conscious brain isn’t. The subconscious does the noticing and the protecting.

The subconscious is the brain’s powerhouse.

This is the place where all the good ideas come from. And our subconscious mind LOVES movement. We’re also built for this. When we move we jar things around in the grey matter. The ideas come alive. We force out the million-dollar gems as we shower, make omelettes, or pick-up dog poop.

It’s time to do more stuff at once

If you’re a creator and you want to give yourself the best environment for great ideas, it’s time to multi-task. Now, you CAN’T focus on more than one thing at a time.

Don’t be an idiot.

Don’t try and plan a book outline or a email sequence while listening to a podcast. Don’t read and do a puzzle, or have a meaningful conversation while solving a math problem.

Multitasking well means performing activities you do unconsciously (in a flow-state) while focusing on only one thing at one time. I like to drive, walk, cook, and clean with podcasts going.

I don’t have to focus on any of that other stuff (well, maybe a little driving), so the podcast or audio books have the right atmosphere for planting ideas. If I sat and did nothing but listen to the podcast I’d be 100% in my conscious mind (unless I was daydreaming).

I need the movement from other tasks to complete the creative environment.

This is why audio is such a powerful tool. We can do two or more things at once without multi-focusing (which we can’t do). The conscious mind is kept busy by priming it with great new, innovative ideas. The subconscious gets the food and environment it needs to deliver us the creative gems that further our work.

Multitasking is where breakthroughs happen

I get my best writing ideas through multitasking. The physical work keeps my distracted, unconscious mind more-focused and quiet. I’m and introvert and a writer. I live in my head a lot.

The problem with living in your head is that it leads to unproductive daydreaming and scatter-brained nonsense. We think a little here — a little over there. Pretty soon we’ve got squirrels water skiing in one hand and a list of to-dos swirling around over here.

We want this thinking time to be more productive for us. We want to aim our unconscious mind to work for a good cause, not squirrels on water skis.

The trick is we can’t force subconscious thought. We can only provide the food.

If we try and force subconscious thought we’re really using conscious thought — the little brain. And all those great ideas go to the back-room and hide until we let go and provide the subconscious its proper environment again.

It’s time to do multiple things at once and feel good about it.

The key is to choose a singular focus and multiple, mindless tasking. We don’t do well creatively when we sit for hours at a time, physically doing nothing. Yet, this is the environment within which most of us work.

We can’t always work on the move, but when we get the chance this is the place we’ll come up with our best work. We distract the part of the brain we think does all the thinking (which is the brains dirty little trick), so the silent partner can get to work.

The focus provides the food for the subconscious. The action draws-out the ideas.

Your subconscious is working on problems all the time. But the dirty secret of our most-powerful brain is that we can’t force the ideas to come out. We’ve got to trap them with the proverbial cardboard box, stick, and carrot trap. Just like the cartoons.

When we don’t try and force the good ideas, they’ll come to use. Our job is to notice and pull the stick, trapping the good idea in our conscious mind before we lose it again.

Always carry a capture device

I’ve got notebooks, digital records (for the car), and legal pads all over the place. Many times you’re only given a great idea once before it leaves your mind and floats to someone else who’ll use it.

Never miss another idea again.

The next time you multitask, make sure you’ve got a capture device nearby. I even have a waterproof notepad for the shower. It might sound like overkill, but I get book ideas, article ideas, and business ideas almost daily with this method.

Taking action is the next step, but that’s for another story.

It’s time to do a lot of stuff at once. We need what you’ve got in that melon of yours. Let it out. We need more of your great ideas. Multitask away, just don’t attempt to multi-focus (that leads to negative productivity).

We’re waiting for you.

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August Birch

Written by

Writer | Marketing & Email Expert for Creators | Enroll in My FREE, Tribe 1K Email Masterclass:

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

August Birch

Written by

Writer | Marketing & Email Expert for Creators | Enroll in My FREE, Tribe 1K Email Masterclass:

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

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