The Myths of Multi-Tasking
It’s common for people to brag that they are efficient multi-taskers able to easily complete multiple tasks concurrently in an attempt to seem more productive and efficient. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Here are three key things you should know about how the brain works to ensure you are working at your best.
- Not all tasks are created equal1 While you may be able to successfully walk and talk, doing much more than that becomes difficult. Once we are a few years old, walking becomes automatic; we don’t need to think about how we walk (though, think about how much more we concentrate on unstable terrain). Other tasks like carrying out a conversation require far more concentration and cognitive processing.Technological distractions are stressing us out2 Notifications—or digital interruptions—are causing people to be less attentive and more hyperactive—similar to the symptoms of ADHD. These interruptions cause us to lose focus and often result in careless mistakes, forgetfulness and increase the need for re-work.Working memory is limited3 There is only so much the human brain can process at any given time (an impressive amount, to be fair), and if multi-tasking exceeds that limit, then our performance will suffer. While you may be able to walk and talk at the same time, carrying out two concurrent conversations will likely be either impossible for you, or very stressful. Yet this is something that we often try to do, conversing with one person face-to-face while simultaneously checking out phones. We know that this doesn’t work, and it’s time to admit it, and prioritise focus.
So where in your day are you kidding yourself by believing that you can multi-task? And more importantly, what will you do to ensure that you improve your focus and productivity?