“Multitasking means screwing up multiple things at once.”
So is multitasking just a myth? According to a Stanford study, we might be able to process two things at once at a high level, but we could not make intelligent decisions for multiple streams of activities at one time. In fact, Stanford research Eyal Ophir said, “Research in the 1950s showed that when people listen to two different streams of audio, they focus on one, and can only do the most basic processing of the other. So if you’re listening to a voice in one ear, you can tell if the speech to the other ear has changed gender, or if it calls your name. But you can’t tell if it’s changed language, or suddenly starts playing in reverse.”
More recent multitasking myth studies with neuroscience research proved that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously. Instead, we do many things in quick succession. And that isn’t very effective either. And every time we move from one task to another, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain. That start/stop/start process is rough on us – rather than saving time through multitasking, it costs us time, we make more mistakes, it’s less efficient, and over time it can be energy sapping.
Multitasking Myth Test
Make sure you time both exercises. It shouldn’t take more than two minutes total. If you think that you are a genetic anomaly and somehow you are the only one in the world who can truly multitask, try taking this small test:
- Draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper
- Now, have someone time you as you carry out the two tasks that follow:
- On the first line, write:
- I am a great multitasker
- On the second line: write out the numbers 1-20 sequentially, like those below:
- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
How much time did it take to do the two tasks? Write that time down, because we’re about to put you to the real test.
Now, let’s try multitasking:
Draw two more horizontal lines. This time, write a letter on one line, and then a number on the line below, then the next letter in the sentence on the upper line, and then the next number in the sequence, changing from line to line. In other words, you write the letter “I” and then the number “1” and then the letter “a” and then the number “2” and so on, until you complete both lines.
How did you fare? Is your time a bit slower? Do you have more errors? If not, then you might truly be a genetic anomaly and we should get you tested to join the X-Men. More likely, you have seen the multitasking myth. If you were like me, then you realized that you don’t have superpowers. But being normal isn’t so bad. There are other ways for us to increase productivity. Check out these 8 productivity hacks that can get you doing more with less time! Sneak Peak – Using a standing desk with the pomodoro technique can get you 9,000 productivity points.