We've all heard those around us speak of multi-tasking to get more done. But what is it and can we actually do it?
Multitasking is the ability to conduct two or more tasks at the same time both requiring attention and various advanced cognitive processes.
One study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively.
Cynthia Kubu, PhD. “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching,”
When our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention – we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.
Let me pause, I'm sure many of you are thinking, " no I am great at multi tasking". I beg to differ. Don't believe me? thy this simple activity:
Take a pen and paper and with a stopwatch, time your self doing these two tasks. 1. Write out every number from 1 to 26 then
2. Write out the alphabet from A to Z.
How long did that take?
(here is mine for reference) Make a note of your time and do part two.
Now turn the paper over and time yourself writing both sequences BUT switch from numbers to letters alternately so, 1, A, 2, B, 3, C, 4, D for they look like this:
1 2 3 4 5 6
A B C D E F
Again here is mine - note the time difference!
That switching cost - from one sequence (task) to another added significant time to the overall task. When we multi task we slow down. Try focusing on one thing at a time for a day and see how you do. Our brains are not dual or quad core, we do one thing at a time best. One. Thing. At. A. Time.
Did you try the above? How did you do? Answer in the comments!