Multitasking is an illusion

Credits: Unsplash / The Creative Exchange

I read about a research that debunked multitasking and had the opportunity of actually paying attention to verify its truth this morning.

Most of us claim to multitask. But do we really?

I arrived twenty minutes early for a car service appointment. I received a phone call as I pulled in to the building. I planned to stay in the car till the phone conversation was over before pulling up to the service line. But, a service staff walked up to me, greeted me, and stated that someone would be with me shortly. The interruption to acknowledge the service staff was a split second, but on return to my phone call, it was enough to throw me off the point I was with the conversation. If I hadn’t read this article, I would have been bothered that old age and memory loss were slipping unto me. Help Lord.

Multitasking

We’ve all done it. Driving, listening to the radio, answering a phone call or calling someone. Or moms getting kids ready for school while planning dinner at the same time or calling her boss about a meeting for the day or just to say that she’s running late. Reading and eating. We juggle multiple tasks and seem efficient at it. My daughters while in high school would leave their music on, not soft-playing, but loud, while supposedly studying. It used to angst me. How anyone could study in such an environment still beats me till today. I was the only one in the family who thought it was an anomaly then, so I didn’t win in trying to change it. But I learned to accept it while giving them the benefit of doubt realizing that we all learn differently. I love peace and quiet and I’m from the old school that there should be no disturbances or noises when studying.

At work multiple projects are started or simultaneously ongoing with the same project managers and team members crossing projects. It used to be popular and folks were seen as super-efficient. Not any more.

The research states that contrary to our beliefs, multitasking actually reduces efficiency. According to a University of Southern California (USC) Masters of Applied Psychology (MAPP) article, “multitasking is no longer a skill to brag about, but to worry about and that it causes us to actually make more mistakes, retain less information, and change the way our brain works, leaving everyone wondering “to multitask or not to multitask?””

The frontal lobe, which is responsible for paying attention, engages fully when we are completing tasks. Both the left and right sides of the brain are in harmony when working on a single task. However, when we multitask, it “forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently causing us to forget details and make three times more mistakes when given two simultaneous goals.” This was exactly what happened when I returned to my phone conversation after pausing to respond to the service staff. I forgot where I had excused myself.

Studies

The study was conducted by scientists at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Paris. No information on when the study was conducted was given though.

Another study stated that our IQ scores decline by 15 points when we multitask.

Several studies and researches apparently have been undergone for the past decade or two debunking the benefits and efficiency of multitasking. Why haven’t we caught up yet to the change of single-tasking?

Proof Positive

Drivers multitasking behind the wheels have been responsible for numerous fatalities. Distracted driving, the act of driving while engaging in other activities which takes the driver’s attention away from the road, is responsible for about 3,000 deaths per year.

There you have it my people. Next time you try to multitask, remember it’s no longer cool to do so. For a quality work and maximum efficiency, at home or office, always give your full and undivided attention to one task at a time.

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