The Multi-Tasking Myth

Several months ago, I wrote this post about the fallacy of trying to do two, or even worse three things at once. I’m well familiar with the hazards of this, as I have to be reminded frequently that I can’t do it (at least not effectively) and it simply undermines goal achievement.

All this to say that I ran across an interesting article in Fast Company’s online magazine (which I subscribe to and recommend). You can read that article online here: Stop MultiTasking

MultitaskingTheir point is stated more clearly than mine, but the message is the same. The idea that multi-tasking makes us more productive is more fantasy than reality. Trying to do several things at once tends to result in less tangible results or output than doing one thing, which allows us to focus our attention, which produces maximum results. Split your attention among several things, and output will ultimately fall to near zero.

Since the 1990s, psychologists have done experiments on the human multitasking, it’s characteristics and limits. It’s been shown multitasking is not as workable as when we concentrate on a single item. In general, these studies have disclosed that people show significant interference when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time, if both tasks require choosing and producing action (e.g., (Gladstones, Regan & Lee 1989) (Pashler 1994)). Many researchers believe that it’s the action planning that represents a “bottleneck”, where the human brain can only perform one task at a time. Psychiatrist Richard Hallowell[2] has described multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”

In short, it doesn’t work. You won’t achieve more, you’ll achieve less. It doesn’t help goal achievement, it undermines goal achievement.

Set your goals, and work on one thing at a time. It’s more efficient, more effective and the net result is you’ll cross the finish line faster.

One goal at a time, one thing at a time. Not two, or three, or ……

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