I can admit when I am wrong and I found out this week that I was very wrong. For years I have claimed to be a “Master Multi-Tasker” (MMT), Well, I was sooooooo wrong. For I have found out that “multitasking” is but a mere myth…
I am reading 100 books in 1 year. Last week I started reading the book Brain Rules. While I was reading rule #4 “Attention,” the author Dr. John Medina explains why the brain cannot actually perform “multitasking.”
Allow me to enlighten you…
According to Dr. Medina, it is impossible for the brain to process anti-rich inputs simultaneously. The brain naturally focuses on concepts or tasks in a sequential order one at a time. Thus the concept of performing multiple tasks at the same time is a myth…bummer, huh?
Can you believe it? I was in shock and awe.
How could this be? I really thought that I was “getting more done.”
So what in fact, is taking place?
Well according to Dr. Medina here’s what takes place:
- Step 1 – Shift Alert: I need to write a blog. Blood rushes to my switchboard (prefrontal cortex) alerting my brain that it’s time to shift my attention.
- Step 2 – Rule activation for task #1: The alert has an embedded two-part message. Part 1 locates the neurons that are capable of writing the blog (finding the rules to write a blog). Part 2 once the neurons are gathered the command is given to start writing. This process is called “rule activation” and occurs very quickly in tenths of a second.
- Step 3 – Disengagement: While I am writing the blog, I receive a text message from my daughter. Because the rules for texting are different than writing, the brain has to disengage from the blog to respond to the text message. The switchboard receives another rush of blood returning back to step 1 and informs the brain that a shift alert is occurring.
- Step 4 – Rule activation for task #2: Just like in step 2 another two-part message process begins. The rules to type the text are located. Next, the command is given to start typing the text. Again the process takes tenths of a second.
These 4-steps occur every time you switch from one task to the next task. Remember that the brain processes tasks in sequential order so, when you return back to task #1 you will be less effective and consume more time. Why does this happen? Because the brain actually had to “start over” as you return to the previous task. Don’t believe me? Ever found yourself saying…“Now where was I?” This break from task 1 to complete task 2 has thrown you off track. I’d say that’s being ineffective.
“Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50% longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50% more errors.” – Dr. Mendina
So what was I doing?
I have a very full hippocampus (that means a great memory). I am great at paying attention to several inputs at one time. Which caused me to believe that I was “multi-tasking.” In reality I was “task jumping.” Because I am efficient I believed that I was accomplishing more with this process.
So what’s my point?
Although I am saddened I will no longer refer to myself as the MMT (Master Multi-Tasker), I am but a mere mortal with a happy hippocampus. I have learned that I will be more productive when I complete one task in its totality and then move on to the next one.
I gotta be honest with you, I am very excited. Now, I can leverage this information to become even more efficient. As a tactical strategist it will only enhance my skill set.
Returning back to normalcy
P.S. These tips should help as well…
Read more: Lessons From A Multitasking Mother Of Three