Yeah, that’s a pretty good representation of my workspace, except I’ve got a little more clutter (OK, a lot more clutter) and precisely one fewer Mac Pro shiny trash can.

I started running a dual monitor configuration years ago and I’ve never looked back. It’s great for having my writing program open in one window (Notepad, WordPress, Google Docs) and my reference material open on the other screen. For a while there, I’d even “snap” windows such that I could have two or more programs open on each screen for “optimal” performance.

I tell myself that the dual monitor configuration, with multiple tabs open in multiple browser windows, is a boon for my productivity. I can get more done, because just look at all these different things I can be looking at simultaneously! Except, of course, this opens up multiple windows of opportunity (terrible pun intended) for infinite distractions.

Hey look! A castle!

Fully eight years ago, I discussed the concept of twitch working. Instead of strategically planning out what you want to do, you simply rely on quick thinking and fast reflexes to react to the never-ending deluge of input. It’s like twitch gaming, but for work.

Oh, there’s a new email. Oh, there’s a new Facebook message. Oh, here’s another suggested YouTube video. What was I working on again?

Despite what we may delude ourselves into believing, most experts will agree that multitasking stunts your productivity. You’re not really working on multiple things at the same time, because your attention is divided. Each time you switch between tasks, you waste a few moments reorienting yourself and the previous task continues to linger in the back of your head. The technical term is attentional inertia.

I believe it, but what if the circumstances are such that I would actually get more done if I allowed for these kinds of distractions? If I allowed myself to hop between tasks?

More specifically, I’m looking at situations where “monotasking” would lead to a significant waste of time. It can take some time for a number of photos to upload to a client website, for example, so I can spend that time to keep writing or editing another piece. With my weekly vlogs, I can find myself waiting for a video to render. That process can take upwards of half an hour (or more), depending on the video, so I may be tempted into precrastination (not a typo), working on something else while I wait. Maybe I can start writing the accompanying blog post.

Are these “additional” tasks nothing more than distractions, diverting my attention away from deep work? Or do they represent a much better use of the very limited resource of time? I’m not sure. Maybe taking a break while I wait for the YouTube upload isn’t such a bad thing.