Managing Your Time: The Myth of Multi-tasking


During many of our time management sessions, invariable, the subject of multi-tasking comes up.  Many of us try to do it.  We think we can answer emails while we talk to subordinates.  We think we can talk on the phone while checking email.  But according to neuroscientists, this is actually impossible to do.  It’s not that you can’t try to do two things at once.  That is absolutely do-able.  But if you think that is more efficient, then that thinking may be flawed.  Our brains cannot actually do two things at once.  It can switch back and forth between two things, sometimes very quickly, but you always have that lag where the brain has to engage and find out where it left off.

Try this example of how multi-tasking does NOT work.  This is courtesy of my friend, Paul Terlemezian.  Write down the numbers one through twenty-six and time how long it takes.  Now write down “A” through “Z” and time how long it takes.  Got it?  Numbers 1-26 took me 15 seconds.  “A” through “Z” too me 11 seconds.  Now try this and time it.  Write down alternating numbers and letters through M/13.  That is 26 characters, the same number of characters you just wrote.  But it took me 32 seconds.  Over twice as long.  So if you can bl0ck your tasks into discreet chunks so that you don’t have to switch back and forth, you can be much more productive.

The two biggest keys to great time management are: 1) Figure out what NOT TO DO!  This fits right into this concept of multi-tasking.  Do one thing at a time with total focus and choose the things that are going to get you the biggest returns.

and 2) Don’t get on other people’s agendas.  Set aside time to get your important stuff done without interruption.

Check out this You Tube Video on multi-tasking:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO_oEGHWSMU

For more information on how the brain works, you can check out the book, Brain Rules, by John Medina, or check out my book, Time Management, Stress Management, and Life Balance on my website at http://www.brentdarnell.com.

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3 Responses to Managing Your Time: The Myth of Multi-tasking

  1. Hi Brent, great article on the multitasking myth that won’t die. As long as people confuse activity with results, they’ll get into trouble trying to do too much.

    Daniel F.

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