The Multitasking Myth: Stop Deceiving Yourself

by | Jan 11, 2017 | Blog | 14 comments

Like many people, you probably take great pride in believing you are a multitasker. For example, maybe you’re reading this article while trying to save time by doing multiple things at once. For example, you’re cooking dinner, while watching the news on TV, or riding a stationary bicycle while reading a book. 

Everyone does it: In our society, doing one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful.

And to some degree, you are good at doing more than one thing at a time. For example, you can walk and listen to music at the same time, or fold laundry while talking on the phone. It’s not a problem because this type of multitasking employs rote tasks that don’t require much brainpower.


Multitasking is a Delusion

You believe you are the epitome of productivity and efficiency, getting so much done all at once. Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but what you do isn’t multitasking.

So, yes, we’re capable of doing two things at the same time. What is impossible, however, is concentrating on two tasks at once.

For the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

What we can do, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed. But you’re not paying attention to everything around you at the same time because you never get fully “in the zone” for any activity.

Studies show that we frequently overestimate our ability to handle multiple tasks. And we make mistakes. (ThinkYou’reMultitasking?)


Serial Tasking

What you and every other so-called multitasker do, is serial tasking. You are, in fact, shifting from one task to another to another in rapid succession. You may believe you are doing them simultaneously. But you’re not.


Persuasive Research

The American Psychological Association’s web site describes how so-called multitasking is neither effective nor efficient. In fact, up to 40% more time than single tasking — especially for complex tasks. (


Give Up Multitasking; Become More Productive

Multitasking doesn’t work. In addition to lessening your productivity, it also lowers your IQ and shrinks your brain—reducing density in the region responsible for cognitive and emotional control.

Single tasking, that is, focusing completely on those tasks that are essential and maximize your performance, is an effective tool for making small, yet profound gains in productivity.

People who do the most valuable work have one thing in common – they are willing to say no to distractions and focus on their one thing.

Here are four ways for you develop concentration on one task: (stop-multitasking-and-start-singletasking)

  1. Schedule Your Activity – Designate a time slot to work on one task or project. Go to a meeting room or work location if it helps concentrate on the task at hand
  2. Do One Thing at a Time – Surprisingly, you complete more tasks done by doing them individually. Also, you’re faster and make fewer mistakes.
  3. Show up and Focus – Be present with what you are doing instead of letting your focus float to other tasks. By focusing on the immediate task, you will likely be able to get to the others more quickly.
  4. Finish What You Start –Take tasks to closure before starting the next one. There is momentum when you finish things before taking on the next task.

Accept that it is okay to do one thing at a time by learning that slow is faster and fast is only exhausting.  If you’re doing mindless things like watching television while browsing your Facebook newsfeed, go for it. But be aware that you aren’t paying full attention to either thing, which can be okay if nothing’s at stake.



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