Multi-tasking – Or Is it Really “Serial Tasking?” by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.

Mar 25th, 2013

multitask2Multi-tasking is a hot topic and one that is misunderstood. Our society and the pace of our lives encourage the misconception of multi-tasking. What is misunderstood is that generally multi-tasking makes us less productive rather than more productive.

Our brains do not switch well between tasks and in fact, are unable to do two tasks that require thinking at the same time. So, talking on the phone and answering email cannot be done at the same time as productively as you could do them separately. On the other hand, if you have folded clothes for many years and have done it the same way for all these years….then you can fold clothes and watch TV at the same time (a fact that may have escaped others in your household).

So, when deciding whether to “multitask,” consider these productivity tips: 

  1. Does more than one of the tasks require you to think? If so, don’t even pretend to be multitasking.  You are not.

  2. Do you feel annoyed when you’re talking to someone and that person appears to be doing something else at the “same” time? Then don’t multitask when you should simply face the person and listen.

  3. Multi-tasking is not a time-saver, that is, if you want a high-quality outcome from all the tasks at hand.

  4. Do you really give your BEST when you are multi-tasking? Tell the truth.

  5. Does your employer want to pay you for doing less than your best?

  6. What do you have to do to resist the temptation for multitasking?

  7. Are you convinced that although others can’t multitask, you can?  I highly recommend that you read Dave Crenshaw’s book: The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing it All’ Gets Nothing Done.

  8. Do you find yourself daydreaming about something else and claiming that you’re multi-tasking? (A cartoon in the February 2006 Kappan magazine has a student saying to the principal, “Some might call it daydreaming; I call it multitasking.”)

  9. Multi-tasking also involves multi-thinking. Thinking is a “task.” And, because we all have many things whirling around in our head at any one time, we have to be aware that we really can’t “think” about more than one thing at the same time. If your “psychic RAM” is crowded with your many thoughts, have a pad of paper with you at all times that you can use to empty your psychic RAM. (Refer back previous Top Tens in this series for other ideas and reminders about emptying psychic RAM).Note: In the January/February issue of Fast Company magazine, a news release stated that “Women today aren’t just multi-tasking–they are multi-minding, constantly thinking about and preparing for the myriad dimensions in their complex lives.”

  10. There are laws against multi-tasking while driving. It’s called distracted driving. Be safe.

This is another list that you may want to read and reread…. Multitasking detracts from peaceful productivity so you might keep this in mind as you move toward a peacefully productive life. To access a fabulous free teleseminar with my guest Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing it All’ Gets Nothing Done, just click => here and after you’ve checked out, you’ll immediately get an email with the link to the MP3 recording and the link for the teleseminar handouts.

© Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®) was a university professor for over 15 years and spent five of those years working with faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Since leaving the full-time academic life, Meggin writes, consults, and does workshops for smart people who want to be more productive, thereby being able to consistently keep their emphasis on excellence. Thus, the name of her company is Emphasis on Excellence, Inc.

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