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Multitasking. You're probably doing it right now. You're reading and listening to the TV and keeping an eye on the kids, right? Multitasking is a revered skill today, because so many things demand our attention at once. And you may think you can handle multiple issues in a split second, but according to the experts, multitasking is a myth.
"Nope," says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist and author. "Multitasking doesn't work. And the technology around us creates the illusion that it does." Your phone, tablet and computer can all process several things at once by dividing "attention" evenly between the tasks. Unfortunately for us, our brains do not have that same ability.
Shuffling the deck
"We lose task efficiency as soon as we add more tasks — and sometimes our brain shuffles the deck in terms of prioritizing these tasks in ways we don't want." For example, I often find myself working on my computer in the same room as a blaring TV, a whining dog and a babbling infant. If multitasking worked, I'd be able to get my job done in that kind of chaos, maybe just a little slower. The reality? I stare at my computer screen, composing the same sentence in my head over and over, because my thoughts keep getting interrupted before I can type them out. I think I'm multitasking, but I'm not. I'm just switching from one task to another, never having enough time to fully engage in any of them. And not only is attempting to multitask inefficient, it can be dangerous.
"What gets tough is for example — when we engage in an over learned task, like driving a car — much of the time it is procedural and easy, but also a space where a split second decision could be very dangerous. Thus, talking on the phone, playing with a radio, sending a text and bang — not so good."
Dr. Ramani says we lose efficiency and waste time and effort when we try to multitask. We live under an illusion that we are able to do multiple things at once because our technology can, but the reality is that if you're checking Facebook and listening to your spouse or talking with your child, your loved ones are not getting your full attention. They're not receiving what you think you're giving them. Stop what you're doing and focus on the ones you love. Look them in the eye. It's important.
It's a myth
"Our picture of success is the busy mom balancing Baby on a hip, stirring a pot and editing a report," Dr. Ramani notes. "…An executive on the phone, in a meeting and reading a document. It's not true. We are in fact only doing one thing at a time — so in that way multitasking is a myth."
It can also cause us to forget more, and become slower at life in general, as we are putting a lot of stress on our brains. Even computers can get bogged down when you try to run too many processes at once. Your brain is the same. What if, just for today, you focused on one thing at a time? What if you put your phone down? You closed the laptop? What if today your family got your full attention? Try it. You might be surprised at just how productive you can be.
How do you multitask? Tell us in the comments below.