Unravelling The Myths Of Multitasking


Yes! you have a million things floating around in your mind. Chores that keep piling up, things to remember, and targets to reach. How do you get everything done in a day? It seems to be never-ending, and of course, you resort to setting reminders on your gadgets and having to-do lists stuck on boards. It is like a constant juggle between various activities and yet, you feel as if you have a lot left on your plate. What do you call this lifestyle where you’re involved in different tasks at the same time? Let us take a closer look at the entity that is multitasking.

Researchers have described multitasking as doing two or more tasks at a time or getting involved in two or more tasks in rapid succession.

Shifting back and forth between different tasks has also been categorized as multitasking.

Even though it sounds like your brain is getting more active and energetic by using it simultaneously, researchers say otherwise.

Unravelling The Myths Of Multitasking

Here are a few examples of multitasking: talking on the phone while driving, attending meetings and answering emails, eating and watching television, using a GPS while walking or driving. Some have dangerous outcomes, while others are more acceptable.

While seeking the reasons as to why people multitask, the answers reveal that it gives people the feeling of increased productivity and judicious use of their time. It also gives them an illusion of getting many things done in very little time, kind of like a balancing act.

The psychology behind task initiation

How does the mind initiate a task or move onto the next task? What is the psychology behind it?

According to studies, there are two stages of task initiation:

  1. Goal shifting, where the mind now prepares itself to stop one task and begin another
  2. Rule activation, switching off the commands of the present task and activating those of the next.

Now imagine doing this quickly, shuffling between two activities! Seems like a lot of work to be doing at a rapid pace. What if these are complex tasks that require a lot of thinking and concentration? Will a person be able to give complete justice to them? It is believed that, as the complexity of activities increase, people find it difficult to complete them on time, and they yield poorer or even, dangerous outcomes.

People who shift between a lot of things, are known as “heavy multitaskers” and have also had negative results during these studies.

What do the studies about multitasking reveal?

There are several studies that have shown detrimental effects on the productivity and effectiveness of a multitasker. Those who multitask on a regular basis seem to be having less optimal outcomes.

Regarding time management, it leads to more time lost than what we are made to believe. This means that, in reality, a person takes more time to do those things, that too without the desired results. This has been seen across almost all domains, even if a person is very familiar with it.

Multitasking also leads to more errors, which may prove costly and tricky to overcome. So, why doesn’t it improve productivity and efficiency? There are a few factors that need to be considered here.

Elaborate assignments have a lot of rules and intricacies that need to be paid attention to. If you allow your brain to wander to other things amidst these complex tasks, you won’t be able to focus on them completely. This in turn will affect the execution and give less desired results.

Some trials have shown that it can lead to disorganized thoughts and mental blocks which can have a negative impact. There are also chances of your mind wandering, just because you’re thinking of different things at a time.

How to curtail its negative effects?

These are some solutions to curtail the negative effects of multitasking.

  • Try to maintain a healthy balance of your time, be it at work or Prioritize your chores and allot some time for each depending on the difficulty. Don’t stuff your day with too many activities, which can tempt you to multitask.
  • Focus on the work you’re doing at the moment and employ your mind for subtle things like calculating small numbers instead of using the calculator or finding your own way to a point by remembering landmarks and avoid using the GPS always. Be mindful of yourself and the surroundings. Learn a few attention techniques that sustain your interest and soon enough, you will learn to get everything done fast and accurately.