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Are You Really Multitasking?

According to Wikipedia, human multitasking is the ability of a person to perform more than one task at the same time. Sound good in theory?

In an article I read a little while ago on npr.org, multi tasking was referred to as a ‘human delusion’.

“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.” Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. What we can do, he said, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed. “Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said. “You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.” Unquote

I tend to agree with Professor Miller with regard to us actually switching from task to task rather than saying it’s multitasking. So with that in mind, I do believe when it comes to organizing ourselves there are some things we can switch to and from effectively – as long as they don’t require too much brain power. Some examples I can think of are:

  1. Ironing, exercising, working gym equipment or knitting while watching television.
  2. Getting up from the TV during commercial breaks and doing a quick tidy and straighten of items in the home, shred paper or write and stamp your Christmas cards.
  3. Gradually washing up as you create a meal, even if it’s to put items in a sink to soak.
  4. While your phone is on speaker phone listening to ‘on-hold’ music/messages, you can still type, file, check schedules, make a to-do list, delete emails from your in-box.
  5. While waiting to pick up kids from school, sports practice etc. Catch up on any reading for work or pleasure. Clean out your purse/bag/briefcase/car boot! Make a shopping list or catch up on phone/emails on your mobile device instead of the eternal social media scrolling. Zen out with a meditation App.
  6. While one load of clothes are washing,  sort, fold or iron dry laundry, sweep the floor, tidy the laundry benches or sew a button on a shirt.
  7. Walk the dog and get some exercise at the same time as listening to a great tune on your mobile device.
  8. While travelling, catch up on some reading, do your journal, plan your itinerary or close your eyes and rest.
  9. Make double the quantity of a slow cooked meal or similar for dinner and either freeze the rest in portions for later or put it in a microwave container for reheating at work for lunch the next day.

To take this to the humour level, check out this rather amusing YouTube video where someone is ‘certainly’ multi-tasking effectively! He combines interacting with people; seeing the city and … well … I’ll let you see what else he does. All I know is it put a smile on my face and I hope this kind of multi-tasking goes viral!

Lastly, if you still have trouble multi-tasking, I will leave you with a quote from a first century B.C. Roman Slave who said: “To do two things at once is to do neither.” – Publilius Syrus.

Personally, I plan to arm myself with this line next time someone in my life is being rather unreasonable.

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