Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Myth of Multitasking

It is cool to be a multitasker these days.  Many people have so many things to do that they feel like they need to do them all at the same time in order to finish.  Some really have too much to do while others just like to feel important.

The reality is multitasking is impossible.  The human brain cannot effectively do 2 or more tasks at the same time.   Those that are good multitaskers are actually good switchers, meaning the ability to quickly switch from one task to another.

For example, my Dad pretends like he can read the paper, watch tv, and have a conversation at the same time.  Now although it may seem like he is doing all of those at once, he is actually switching from task to task. (Which he does quite well.)

You may be someone that can talk on the phone, check your e-mail, cook dinner, and watch your kids all at the same time.  Although you may have 4 or 5 "tasks" going on, you are only doing one of them at a time.  You stop talking on the phone while you read your e-mail.  You stop watching your kids while you are browning the meat.  You let the water boil over while you are checking Facebook. 

Multitasking or "switching" is an important skill to learn as long as you remember 2 things.
1. Be Respectful - When people are involved it is important to make them feel important.  Stop everything and listen to what they have to say.  If you only have 3 minutes then tell them you only have 3 minutes.
2. Focus First - First, take time to focus on each task and complete it so you can do it to the best of your ability.  You'll be impressed with yourself when you knock out your to-do list.  Multitask the rest of your list if necessary.

(Sidenote:  Multitasking is only good when one of the tasks is mindless or takes a while to complete.  My wife reads while blow-drying her hair.  My friend listens to audiobooks while on his commute.  I check e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter while in the bathroom....oh don't even act like you don't do the same!)

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