The Myth of Multitasking

We all love to brag and say that we multitask.  The notion of doing multiple activities at the same time is empowering. But do we actually get those things done in the most efficient way?  A colleague of mine, Ellen DePasquale, author of It’s About Time (Time Management Tips From The Software Revitalist) argues the fact that we are indeed not multitasking, rather in reality, we are “task-switching.”  The ability to focus on many tasks simultaneously and giving them our full attention is almost impossible. We are not robotic machines and as a result, something will be compromised. With the more daily activities, we often do them by rote, and so we pile more tasks on top of them because we think we can handle it.  But as we take on more, the complexity of what we are doing may be distracting us from doing anything well.  DePasquale writes, “besides the inability to focus well and being prone to distraction, when you task-switch you lose time between tasks.”  She simply suggests, do one thing at a time.  It makes perfect sense to immerse yourself in one single activity and do it well.

 Honestly, how many of you on any given day, have started doing a laundry, then decided to sort the mail, began paying some bills, perked the coffee, passed by the computer and decided to check your inbox, emptied the dishwasher, bagged the garbage, ran upstairs because your cell phone was ringing, and invariably, misplaced something along the way, or even forgot what task you were doing in the first place?   It’s OK, we all do it because we think we can do it all.  I, for one, am going to try to stop being Superwoman and juggle too many things at the same time.  This is a tall order, for sure, so I will attempt to abandon the following habits:  No more talking on the phone while reading or writing important e-mails (we all do it, and it is kind of rude when it is done to you); no more phone chatting while trying to cook a detailed meal (I inevitably forget an ingredient); no more driving and eating, while talking on the phone (even with hands free, this is neither safe nor good for digestion).  However, you will probably still catch me unloading my car, carrying  way too many packages on both arms, hands and all fingers burdened with the cell phone, eye glasses, sunglasses, keys, and most likely a beverage, all to save time from making multiple trips into the house.  In most case, something usually drops or breaks. Maybe one day I’ll change….but in this regard, probably never.