Ah, multitasking… How often have we heard the term throughout our personal and professional lives? As a child, I used to hear it the most from teachers. “Oh, you need to learnt to multitask in order to get things done…” In college, it was almost an expectation and a mantra that students were expected to multitask. Multitask this, multitask that, get things done… I made my way through life with the concept that one had to always be taking care of many things at once, in order to keep up. Although this belief was created and grown by the adults and influences around me, I have to recognize that I played my part in developing the belief that I could, in fact, multitask. But I was wrong. And so are you, if you believe you’re actually multitasking…
Multitasking is a myth. Our brains are not wired to perform high level functions required to accomplish many simultaneous tasks at once. When someone is “multitasking,” they’re usually dividing their attentions between the tasks that they’re performing, albeit quickly enough that they feel they may be doing them simultaneously. The problem with this, is that we run the risk of leaving one task linger or leaving it behind. As we do this consistently throughout the day, we also run the risk of carrying the weight of all those uncompleted tasks along with us, throughout the day. This can result in feeling additional stress and pressure of all the weight we’re carrying, which could have easily been avoided by completing one task before on to the next.
An article posted by the Cleveland Clinic entitled Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work, explains that “We’re really wired to be monotaskers, meaning that our brains can only focus on one task at a time. When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching.” The article gores on to say that “when our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks […] we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.”
For example, I seem to be constantly interrupted by my children for various reasons while trying to write this post. As a result, I’ve had to correct and re-write various portions of the post, even some simple sentences. Another good example is while trying to learn in school. Although taking notes during a lecture is something we all grew up doing, this activity can be a hindrance since one’s attention needs to be focused on the lecture and not taking notes. As you jot down notes, you’ll be prone to miss things that are said or ask the lecturer to repeat themselves because your attention was on your notes as opposed to on what was being said.
You’re probably thinking, that’s all bullshit! I multitask ALL the time, I cook while chatting with my family, I watch television while folding laundry… Although it may seem as thought you’re doing these things simultaneously, you’re really not. And it isn’t all that noticeable when it’s simple tasks that you’re accustomed to performing. It becomes more problematic when the task in question becomes more complicated, convoluted or has something at stake, such as work performance. This is why it’s important to be present in the moment and focus on only one thing at a time. Even when you have a list of things to accomplish, completing one task before moving on to thew next ensures completion of given tasks and less opportunity for oversight and mistakes.
This isn’t a new concept, nor am I revealing anything earth-shattering. But even in the present day, when the pressures and requirements of daily life have done nothing but grow and increase, people still believe that they can perform several tasks at once. And to an extent, maybe they can. But the results are much more positive when we take it one thing at a time. Be in the now. Focus on the present. begin and complete one item before moving on to the next, unless prioritization forces you to do otherwise. The result will be better efficiency, less stress, less pressure and the possibility of living in the moment, which is where we all belong. ☯️