Multitasking the Right Way: How You Can Make the Most of Your Time
There are just not enough hours in the day to get everything you need to do done. If you are like most parents reading this right now, chances are you feel guilty for taking a few minutes of time for yourself when so much is waiting. Push those thoughts away because what we are going to tell you now might just save you considerable time tomorrow. It is time to learn about multitasking the right way.
What is multitasking?
Multitasking is the act of dealing with or performing more than one task at a time.
If you are like me, you think that you are a very effective multitasker. Does this scenario sound familiar? The load of laundry you started this morning is now in the dryer, and a new load is in the washing machine. The pasta is boiling in a pot on the stove while you are stirring meatballs and sauce in another pot with one hand and are rinsing the breakfast dishes and placing them in the dishwasher with the other hand. Your cell phone is wedged between your ear and shoulder as you speak with a doctor’s office or insurance company. Your children beckon to you from the dining room table to help with their homework. You grab a pencil and rework a math problem while fighting to get coverage for your child’s treatment. Ok, maybe you are not rinsing the dishes at the same time as stirring the meatballs. I exaggerated a little, but you get the idea.
This type of multitasking results in forgetting about the pot of water to boil on the stove until it burns, finding wrinkled clothes in the dryer, and not remembering to write down the name of the person you were speaking to on the phone, or noting the time of the next appointment. We are all guilty of over-multitasking at some point.
Yes, we can multitask – but are we doing it correctly? Is there such as thing as proficient multitasking?
That was what researchers at Stanford University set out to discover in 2009. Their findings showed that the people who were the most persistent multitaskers performed the worst in a variety of tasks. Multitaskers do not focus as well as non-multitaskers. They are more distractible and weaker at shifting from task to task or organizing information.
After setting out to discover what unusual gifts multitaskers possessed that made them so successful at multitasking, the researchers found only disadvantages instead of advantages. Instead of being in control of information, they were just getting it all confused.
What they did discover was that the multitaskers not only thought they were great at what they did, but that they managed to convince everyone else that they were good at it, too.
Other studies have backed these results, but, in the end, what it all comes down to is this – multitasking means trying to do too many things at one time and not getting any of them done properly.
Yes, we can listen to music while reading, the music becomes background noise. Students who watch reruns of shows they have seen previously retain more of the information they are studying, researchers have found. However, is this truly multitasking? Researchers do not consider music, TV, or conversation that one is overhearing and not actively participating in, to be tasks at hand. Like the sound of a car passing by, these are auditory stimuli that go along with what we are doing.
True multitasking is literally doing two things at once, not switching back and forth between different tasks. Every time you move your focus from one task to another, you slow down your progress. That is called “switchtasking” and it is not efficient. A law of physics says that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. That also applies to thoughts in the brain.
No matter how many things you try to focus on at once, only one can take a dominant position. All others will receive less than 100% of your attention. Rather than switching back and forth between tasks, it is better to stick with one until it is complete. The best form of multitasking that can bring you success is “background tasking.”
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