To Multitask or Not To Multitask

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September 21, 2016

Do you think you are a good multitasker? Foolishly, I’ve always thought I was great at it. I can surely drive, and watch the road out of the corner of my left eye, while quickly leaning over to the right to reach into my mystical bottomless purse, which is sitting on the passenger seat, because I just have to get something out of it right that moment. It is a pure miracle that this behavior hasn’t gotten me into trouble!


Not surprising, of course, that multitasking has been proven by many scientists to be not only inefficient, but simply non-existent. The human brain just does not multitask. It can only process one task at a time. Although, when working through a familiar activity, the human brain is able to do it fast giving an impression of multitasking.


Edward M. Hallowell, Psychiatrist and Author, referred to multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.”


It is still true that when we are well familiar with an activity, we can do many things at once; yet our brain still processes items on a first come-first served basis.


When people say they are great at multitasking, what they actually mean is they are really good at organizing and prioritizing. Only then are they able to get multiple things done quickly, making it look like they've done them all at once.


Before we part, let me share a quick tip to help you look like a great “multitasker.” It’ll be our little secret! Set pre-defined, uninterrupted time intervals. Pick a short block of time that makes sense for the task at hand. During that time, focus on only that task. No interruptions, no distractions. For example, for the next fifteen minutes, I am focusing on writing this blog post and nothing else. I will switch over to the next activity in fifteen minutes; or if I’m fully emerged in the work, I’ll stop when this task is finished. Of course, turning off email notifications and phone ringers during these set time blocks will help you stay fully focused on the task and ensure you give the job your best shot and effort.


Happy “multitasking!”

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