Is Multitasking a Myth?

For the longest time, I’ve prided myself in being a fantastic multitasker. I can sufficiently juggle multiple crazy tasks simultaneously, and still maintain some level of sanity. I often tease my hubby for his “inefficiency”—he’s excellent at performing singular tasks, but not so good at handling multiple concurrent demands (hence the recently burned pot of rice while trying to feed our baby girl).

But after listening to a webinar by Tony Schwartz—Creating a Workplace that Really Works—my understanding of multitasking has shifted.

We’re not wired to operate like computers

According to prevailing wisdom, multitasking is a myth (GASP). To quote John Medina, the author of Brain Rules:

Research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.

And get this: multitasking reduces productivity.

So when I think I’m being efficient by cooking dinner, chatting with mom, doing laundry, checking email, and researching a project, all at the same time, I’m really just wasting my time.

SchwartzT

Serial tasking

So what then is “multitasking?”

Psychologists refer to multitasking as serial tasking. This means that rather than engaging in simultaneous tasks, me and every other proud multitasker is actually shifting from one task to another to another in rapid succession (Taylor 2011).

The key then is to understand the difference between multitasking and task switching. Task switching ultimately leads to decreased efficiency and productivity because each task tends to take longer to finish when multiple tasks are worked on concurrently as opposed to sequentially.

Why is multitasking a valued attribute in today’s society?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light ~ Matthew 11:28−30

Although the ability to multitask is considered a desirable skill, it compromises our health and harms our productivity. Instead, when I’m faced with a gazillion tasks and am feeling weary and burdened, I turn to Jesus. I center myself in Him who promises to give me rest; whose yoke is easy and burden light.

Do you think multitasking is real? What has been your experience with multitasking?

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10 thoughts on “Is Multitasking a Myth?

  1. It’s interesting how as I get older, these things become more and more obvious. Back in the day when my daughter was young, it was high fashion to multi task, but if you think about it, the word multi task makes me think of giving up quality for quantity. Plus it’s like you said, you are never really in the moment. Plus it flows over into others areas, I sure don’t want to multi tasking while doing my bible devotions. Jesus wants my full attention. So why shouldn’t everything get full attention?

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    • Amen, amen, amen. I couldn’t agree with you more. Whenever I do devotionals in the midst of other tasks I don’t really connect with God or hear from him as I should. If its about checking things off the list, that’s one thing, but if the goal is to do things well, then we need more focused attention, as you so eloquently stated 🙂

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  2. Pingback: My Brain is Not an App | Uwana

  3. I am taking a summer away from classes (finished Associates and taking a break before going after the Bachelor degree). Over the past few weeks I find myself growing every day in mastery of my daily skills. While constantly under pressure there was the excitement of exposure to new ideas, but the danger of becoming a “Jack of all trades – master of none.”

    My children also seem to grow in their personalities remarkably over summer vacation, reinforcing the need for rest and following our own inner goals for a time.

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    • I feel the same way. We all need creative rest. It’s so important for enriching our spirits. It’s true that we can be able to dabble in so many areas but not really perfect one. I want to be able to teach/share knowledge, and I can’t really do this if I’m spread to thin.

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      • Way too thin. :/

        My family has been very supportive of my studies, but, I am realizing how much of my creative strength comes from the restorative time enjoying their company.

        With this fresh start, when they say something encouraging about my art, I feel more like I deserve it.

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      • Isn’t that the truth. The times of rest and hanging out with our family and loved ones is what keeps us going. Otherwise who would we share our victories and joys with? It would be meaningless, at least I think so…

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