The Myth That Says Multi-tasking is a Myth

12 Jun

Most serious research has concluded that multi-tasking doesn’t really exist.

When you’re simultaneously watching TV, answering e-mails, checking facebook, and working (or studying), you’re not really multi-tasking. You’re not doing all these things at the same time. You’re just task-switching. You’re alternating between the activities. You stop one to engage in the other, then go back to what you were doing (or engage in a third activity). Just because you leave the TV on, while you’re working, doesn’t mean you’re doing both at the same time, and even if you manage to do both, the amount of time involved is much longer than it would be if you had done one at a time. So there: multi-tasking is a myth.

However, there is widespread belief that women are natural multi-taskers because they manage to simultaneously work, care for kids, run a household, etc…  Now, I’m not going to get into the argument of whether men can do it too, or not. All I’m saying is that research leads us to believe that if any of these activities were done individually, the outcome would be better than when done in conjunction with other tasks.

But, who determined that the goal of multi-tasking is to do more, and do it better?  The objective is just to get more things done.

Whether you’re simultaneously cooking a pot roast, writing a blog post and texting a friend or changing a baby’s diapers, watching the football game and going over your speech notes, you’re doing what you can in the time you have.

Of course, when the pot roast timer rings, you stop writing your blog post to tend to it. Likewise, you can’t recite your speech when a fantastic play happens during the game. Therefore, if you want to write the best blog post ever, deliver the most amazing speech or just be crowned the diaper king/queen, then you focus on that activity alone.

But then, we’re not really talking about multi-tasking anymore. Then, it’s just plain old distraction.


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