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  • Writer's pictureSarah M.

mysterious multitasking

You might think you're a great multitasker, but I'm here to let you down and tell you that you're not. There's no such thing.

Think about your daily surroundings. You are in the car texting while flippin' through Spotify or you're at the office and you’ve got a bunch of browser windows open (each of them are tabs you “need”, obviously). Your email inbox is steadily filling up in the background and you keep on getting chat messages from different colleagues about lunch. And then there's the kids and dinner and hobbies and of course, your phone, naturally you are multitasking. The thing is, there’s no such thing as multitasking.

As multiple studies have confirmed, true multitasking; doing more than one task at a time; is a myth. Those who think they can split their attention between multiple tasks at once aren’t actually getting more done, it's just an illusion. In fact, they’re doing less, getting more stressed out, and performing worse than those who single-task.

Dividing attention across multiple activities is wearing on the brain, and can often come at the expense of real productivity. And though the brain is a galaxy of neurons with multiple connections, humans have a limited capacity for information processing and after a point, it's not sure if we're capable of doing more.

In the business world, concerns about time-management are endless and warnings about workplace distractions spawned by a multitasking culture are on the rise.

Even if it were possible that there might be a learning curve, that people could train themselves to be better at multitasking, most people won't be able to sustain that over a long period of time, so don't get too excited.

And while most of us can walk and chew gum and/or hold a conversation simultaneously, the same can’t be said for more complex tasks. David E. Meyer a Professor at the University of Michigan and Chair of the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience area of the Psychology Department says we simply don’t have the brain power to multitask. And that "multitasking" can lead to more mistakes than efficiencies.

So why do so many spend their days trying to multitask? And if it is bad for us, how can we break the cycle? Is there a way to protect our valuable attention, focus, and time?

Here is the secret. Doing several things does not drive faster or better results. Doing better things drives better results. Even more accurately, doing one thing as best you can, drives better results. It's that simple. Is it achievable?

Maybe these steps could help.

1. Each day find that one big task, that thing you priorities.

You might not master the art of focusing and concentrating yet, work on it. And although you will complete other tasks during the day, prioritize one task that is non-negotiable, the thing that must get done.

2. Don't create more busyness, there is no room for that.

As a society, we've fallen into a trap of busyness and overworked; to the point where it's almost a sexy trend, a cool thing. Well it's not! Stop it! We have mistaken all this activity to being something meaningful.“I must be important because I'm so busy.” Shut up! If being busy is what drives meaning in our lives, we are just kidding ourselves and trying to prove something to others. Those who do the most valuable work have a remarkable willingness to say no to distractions and focus on their one thing. Because doing something meaningful is contributing something of value to your corner of the Universe.

So slow down, you don't have to do it all. Prioritize and don't add unnecessary busyness to your day, it can wait. If you commit to nothing you’ll be distracted by everything.

But there is hope for multitasking, I heard that it in approximately 10000 years from now humans might actually able to multitask on some level. Maybe.


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