The Truth About Multitasking

Which way do I go first?

As a result of growing safety concerns about people texting on their cell phones while driving (there is mounting evidence that texting creates a greater risk of crashing than even drunken driving), the NY Times has recently published a flurry of articles and editorials on the subject. The conclusion reached by many automakers, cell phone manufacturers/service providers, Internet companies, computer science and communications professors, The National Safety Council, the Governors Highway Safety Association, lawmakers and President Obama is that texting while driving is dangerous and should be outlawed.

The Times cited a wide variety of sources and studies and all of them stated that the ability to multitask effectively is a fiction and that multitasking creates the illusion of productivity and efficiency rather than actual productivity and efficiency. That’s because the brain can only perform one challenging task at a time; it hasn’t evolved yet to the point where it can process multiple streams of data simultaneously, like checking email and talking to someone on the phone. What we call multitasking is actually switching attention rapidly back and forth among a number of different tasks and all that activity takes time and creates inefficiencies.

While not all multitasking is as potentially catastrophic as texting and driving can be, by trying to juggle one more ball than you possibly can, you become increasingly distracted, unable to maintain focus when you need to, irritable, impulsive, restless and – over the long term – underachieving and less productive. Think about it. When was the last time you did just ONE thing for a half an hour?

If you want to have more time to spend with loved ones, not feel rushed all day long or accomplish your business and personal goals, good time management skills are essential. Though it will undoubtedly take some patience and discipline on your part until it becomes a habit, focusing your attention on doing just one thing at a time is a good place to start.

Now that I’ve finished writing this article, I’m going to move on to my next task!

One thought on “The Truth About Multitasking

  • October 16 2009 at 3:41 pm
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    One way to avoid multi taksing is getting your tasks prioritized. Set reasonable deadlines, times, and reminders for all your chores and errandts.
    A calendar for special events and appointments, or a little notebook/agenda in your purse for quick reminders or your grocery shopping list.

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