Multitasking is dead

I tried multitasking. Really, I did. I focused my full attention on it, to the exclusion of all other things. Yet even that couldn’t make it work.

Multitasking might be right for some people. It might work in some circumstances. I’m not entirely incapable of multitasking. I can listen to music while I drive my car. I can engage in conversation over dinner.

But I cannot answer your questions while cooking. Try to talk to me when I’m holding a sharp knife and a pan of boiling water, and you’ll be sorry, I guarantee it.

The same is true of most of what I do.

I cannot tolerate noise while I am working. Except white noise. White noise boosts concentration, and I listen to the sound of rainfall whenever I work. It’s always stormy in my office, whatever the weather outside.

I cannot tweet while watching television.

I cannot read my email while you look over my shoulder.

I cannot brush my teeth while singing the national anthem, and I cannot go to a yoga class and retain any sense of dignity.

There are many, many combinations of things that I cannot do at the same time. Most things, in fact.

I don’t think I am alone. A recent study claims that multitasking turns you into a moron. I’m not sure if I fully agree with that. I can’t even think about it properly right now, as I am busy writing a blog article. Ask me later.

So for me, multitasking is dead. I am not a multitasker. I never will be.

Henceforth, I resolve to be a singletasker. I will do one thing, and I will do it right.

If you have any suggestions what that one thing should be, please leave a comment below.

23 responses to “Multitasking is dead

  1. I imagine tasks can surprise you in very negative ways when they happen at the same time. I think I’m normal in ability to do two things simultaneously ‘successfully’. I don’t do either well. You seem to be talking about a more challenging case than that.

    Mental attention requires a lot of processing bandwidth. I’ve read a number somewhere of how many megabits/s our brain is capable of handling. Most of the time, that was fine as we evolved. Today, we expose our brains to multiple sources of info. We are asking it to input way more than the evolved standard. It simply can’t do it. So, it shuts off some of the inputs in order to process another.

    • Yes, like Z80 processors, we’re just not designed for it. When modern computers are given too much multitasking than they can handle, they start writing working memory onto scratch space – temporary storage on the hard drive. The human equivalent is the post-it note. If there isn’t a post-it note to hand, our only option is to dump information.
      The human brain is only able to remember between 3 and 7 items at any time in working memory. Like Homer Simpson said, “Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.”

  2. PIL says I’m incapable of single tasking so I think, for me, multi tasking is out of the question. Anyway, isn’t “multitasking” just another way of describing messing several things up at the same time?

  3. As a lesser humorous comment in comparison to the others, I found this hilarious as a stereotypical multitasking female, haha (: certainly some examples made me laugh – the joke was always that guys gave themselves a pat on the back for peeing while in the shower. #multitasking

  4. Multitasking as a human endeavor is overrated. Probably wiser to regard it as dead then think of it as anything that can be depended on.

    Still, when I have one high attention task and another low attention one, I can usually pull it off. At least until the low attention task starts interrupting too much.

    For example, I often write blogs posts and comments on my laptop with the TV on in the background, which I ignore until something interesting comes on, then I look up from the laptop and watch. If whatever’s on TV interrupts too much, it forces me to choose which task I want to do right then, resulting in either the TV being muted or the laptop down being put down.

    Noise bothers me too, although it’s usually easier to cope with if I’m interested in whatever I’m working on. If it’s work I find dull or odious, then silence becomes crucial.

  5. I can’t multitask either. I can do multiple things at the same time, but I do them all poorly.

  6. Hilarious post! Too many relatable moments (especially exercise and holding on to grace and dignity), but I am a distracted single-tasker so I feel damned to be a mediocre multi-tasker.

  7. Have you read the Zenhabits blog by Leo Babauta? It used to be one of the top blogs on the net. Tons of great advice.

    • Ah yes, mindfulness. Let me grab that word and say that it is what I intended this post to be about. I have not failed to multitask; I have instead evolved to a state of zen. Thank you.

  8. Story of my life, only I’m to busy multitasking to realize I’m multitasking. Gotta go, something’s burning.

  9. I can tell how unproductive my day is going to be by noticing how many tabs are open on my computer. productivity is inverse to the number of tabs squared , or something like that.

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