Multitasking vs. Single Tasking: Which is More Effective?

 
 

Do you consider yourself a multitasker? Just about everyone does, and none of us are afraid to brag about it. But you have to ask yourself, are you actually multitasking? Not only that, but we have to consider whether or not it’s a good thing, in the first place. Here, we’ll take a closer look at this method of working and see if it holds water.

 
multitasking

Why do we want to be multitaskers?

Anytime someone questions if we can handle the things we’re working on, we immediately tell them, “I’m a multitasker.” We’re proud of this because we feel that this ability somehow makes us superior beings, smarter than others. But are we really doing multiple things, at the same time?

 
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There is no such thing.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D. comments on this misconception in his article, Technology: Myth of Multitasking (Psychology Today). He says, “There is no such thing as multitasking,” and goes on to explain that while people think they are doing multiple things at once, what they are actually doing is serial tasking.

 
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You’re not multitasking; you’re serial tasking.

Dr. Taylor defines serial tasking as “shifting from one task to another in rapid succession.” So when you say that you’re multitasking, what you’re doing, in reality, is typing part of an email, then stopping that and switching to your phone to read a text, then stopping that and answering a business call, and so on..

 
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So, can people multitask?

Yes, it is possible to engage in two tasks at the same time, but the catch is that you can only do this when the tasks are executed using different parts of the brain. For example, you can drive a car while listening to music, but your brain is not very good at typing a text message while talking on the phone and watching a video—at least not effectively. You’re just not going to retain much if you do that.

While we claim that we can do multiple things simultaneously, it’s just not possible. This is a fallacy because our minds can only effectively give conscious attention and focus to one task of the same type at a time.

 
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Our multitasking hinders productivity.

If your concentration is being constantly broken and redirected to different tasks, this costs more energy, and ultimately more time to complete tasks. Single tasking is far more productive and healthier for your brain because you don’t have to endure the mental stress caused by perpetually stopping and starting tasks.

Find the link at the end of this article to see for yourself how detrimental and inefficient multitasking actually is.

 
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Single tasking? Is that a thing?.

Those who are familiar with the concept of single tasking already understand its value, but the idea is becoming increasingly discarded because we are rewarded for “multitasking”. Here is how you can reduce your stress and be more productive with single tasking:

  • Prioritize your tasks and projects.

  • Start the first task on your list, and focus only on that task, until it is complete.

  • Move on to the next task; lather, rinse, and repeat.

  • Address interruptions when they come, then resume the current task.

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    Frantically moving back and forth between texts, calls, emails, and everything else, does not make you more efficient—in fact it’s quite the opposite. This flies in the face of how we are compelled to think, but the truth is that there is great virtue in concentrating on one thing at a time. If you are still not convinced that single tasking is more productive, try it for a week—it might just change your mind.

     

     

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    SOURCES:

    1. Jim Taylor, Ph.D., “Technology: Myth of Multitasking,” The Power of Prime, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201103/technology-myth-multitasking

    2. “Multitasking: Switching Costs,” American Psychological Association, March 20, 2006, http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx

    Multitasking vs. Single Tasking: Which is More Effective?