Marvelous Mutitasking Myth

Marvelous Mutitasking Myth

Multitasking. This subject creates debate whenever I mention it. People overestimate their power to multitask. Almost everyone is familiar with the term multitasker. Who among us has heard of a mono-tasker?

In a society that values productivity, multitasking has become a badge of honor. The neuroscience does not lie and a mere 2.5 % of us are able to do this effectively. I have known for decades that I am not one of the gifted 2.5 %.

In my profession, I offer up assignments, tasks and exercises for clients to do between sessions to further their goals. When in person, I write these down on note cards. Try as I have, it is impossible for me to write and talk simultaneously. I have said the word I meant to write and written the word I meant to say.

The distraction that attempted multitasking causes is the reason texting and driving is outlawed in many states; it compromises safe driving. These driving regulations are based on science and statistics.

Think you can multitask? Find out. Take this short quiz devised by advisor and coach Avik Chandra.’t-work/

Spoiler alert! I failed.

Task switching, a science word for multitasking, is detrimental to our productivity and our brains. The truth is that if you try to task switch throughout the day, a loss of up to 40% efficiency is the price you pay.

When did the word multitasking make it’s debut? I was curious and my friend google helped me. In 1965, when IBM was singing a new computer’s praises, this word was coined. This term was never even meant to be applied to human beings.

There is one possible exception where we can do two things at once. Research has discovered that if you are doing a physical task that you have done many times and are good at, you can pair that physical task with a mental task. Mental tasks require concentration and the specific physical task has become automatic. This is why I can talk to a sweet friend on the phone while we are both preparing dinner and not lop off a finger.

A client and I were talking about this recently. We must use our powers of discernment to know which we can do together. She can do laundry as she listens to a work webinar and neither task will suffer. She is less confident about her ability to have a coaching call with me and check important emails at the same time.

One way to combat this culture of trying to do two things at once, is to identify our one most important work priority of the day. We can singularly focus on that and make all else secondary. After that, we can pick the next important one. This blog post is my task of the night. After this is done, I can choose another.

A wonderful friend whose son suffered a terrible brain injury and was touch and go for many days, did survive and is thriving. My friend tells me the only thing that her son lost was his uncanny ability to concentrate when several noisy things were happening together. Now, he must have quiet and less background noise to focus well. Given all the ways he could have suffered permanent brain damage, this is a blessing.

Focus on the task at hand
For you are not a one man band
You will increase productivity
Live it, do it, you will see

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