The Myth of Multitasking

As numerous studies have confirmed, true multitasking—doing more than one task at the same time—is a myth.  The human mind is really capable of doing only one thing at a time; so, when you think you are multitasking, what you are actually doing is switching rapidly between activities.

Multitasking actually results in less effective performance on each activity, specifically loss of time and decreased accuracy.

By now you may be thinking, “But I’m really, really good at multitasking.”  Think again.

Interestingly, those of us who think we are really good at multitasking actually have the worst results when performing multiple tasks.

What should you do instead? 

  1. Make a list of tasks you need to accomplish over the course of the day or week and tackle them one at a time.
  2. As you work through your list, focus your efforts on each task over a designated time period, such as 20 minutes for task X, and then 45 minutes for task Y.
  3. Reduce distractions that can pull you back to multitasking, such as answering emails as they come in, streaming audio or video while you work, or responding to text messages.
  4. Organize your day ahead of time with predetermined blocks of time designated for answering emails, checking your phone, and returning non-urgent voice mails.

Still not convinced that single tasking will result in better performance? 

Test yourself. Try your usual multitasking way of working for a few days and keep track of how much time you spend on each type of activity. 

Try single tasking as outlined above and track your time again. 

You may be surprised to learn that you accomplished more in a smaller amount of time the single-tasked way.

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