The Mendacity of Multitasking

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The Mendacity of Multitasking

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If humans could successfully multitask, we could, in theory, accomplish almost everything we needed to do in a single day. However, this is the reality: multitasking is nearly impossible. Now, when this is said,  it doesn’t mean a person can’t walk down the hall and chew gum at the same time. That could be cracked up to muscle memory and a vague awareness of one’s surroundings. Anything else someone might consider multitasking is actually their brain serial tasking. Serial tasking is a person’s brain rapidly switching from one thing to another. What this means is that you could switch from your phone conversation to a document on your computer to an email and back again in the belief that you are multitasking but in reality, the brain is rapidly switching from one task to another.

A very common misconception is that serial tasking is the same as multitasking. This could be why many people are adamant that they are fully capable of multitasking. To those people, these ten facts may be a bit shocking.

1. The human brain is only capable of storing 5-7 bits of information at a time. What this means is that a person can serial task with up to 3-4 tasks, depending on the type of tasks, doing all of them poorly. In order to do more than one task at a time even halfway sufficiently, people can only do 2 tasks in sequence. (Mathew Williams M.D.)

2. Even with serial tasking, your work won’t be as quality as it could be if you weren’t doing more than one thing. This is because when you are interrupted by a task such as checking a text message when doing a larger task, it can take you up to 15 minutes to become fully focused on the larger task again. (Jim Taylor Ph.D.)

3. Multitasking can lead to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, and a 10% drop in IQ. (Peter Bregman)

4. For all the music lovers, there’s no need for worry; Stanford professor, Clifford Nass, says that there is a special part of our brain for processing music, so listening to music won’t distract you while doing something. (Clifford Nass)

5. When we watch TV while reading or doing homework, we may feel like we’re getting more accomplished, but we are really getting less done than if we were doing one thing at a time. (Matthew Williams M.D.)

6. Even watching television, which seems like an engrossing activity, 42% of individuals will browse the internet, 29% will talk on their phones, and 26% will text or instant message someone else about an entirely unrelated topic. (Peter Bergman)

7. Multitasking is not impossible but is incredibly rare. Less than 2% of the world’s population can successfully multitask. (Sanjay Gupta M.D.)

8. If you’re ever thinking about multitasking or interrupting a task you are doing, think about this: the estimated cost of interruptions to the American economy is near $650 billion a year. (Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex, a business-research firm)

9. A very common example of multitasking is distracted driving. Recent studies have shown that texting, on the phone, deep in conversation, etc, while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. (Kenneth Anderson M.A.)

10. People who claim to be the best at so-called multitasking are, in fact, the worst. After a study of multiple students at the University, most results showed that if a student said they were good at “multitasking”, they turned out to be worse than those who said they were bad at it. (David Sanbonmatsu, Professor at University of Utah)

So, next time you’re thinking about “multitasking”, think about these facts and decide whether or not you want to take on the repercussions.