Multi-tasking Fallacy: Why We Are Not Wired To Multi-Task

Multi-tasking ability is something great to be bragged about. Is it a near-super heroic trait or just about being a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Take any job advertisement and you will see this: “Must be able to multi-task.” And an applicant (these days, and perhaps a decade ago) would go, “Sure, I multi-tasking every day” and click “apply” on the phone when a moment was found between perusing the social media apps while attending to intestinal issues at the lavatory.

Multi-tasking is almost a must for every employee of any company, be it a small or medium enterprise, a big corporation, or even a political entity (the members of the latter group are actually longtime experts especially when they make promises). Even a roadside stall owner can be seen handing out changes with one hand while thumb-chatting over the phone with the other.

This is expected of an employee where you are best seen doing finger ballet over the keyboard, fussing with the mouse, and yakking away with clients on a Bluetooth earphone while trying to figure out if Nasi Ambeng is too heavy for lunch.

Multi-tasking Lowers Productivity?

Yet reports are now coming out noting the downside to multi-tasking, like here, for instance, where it says, multi-tasking “lowers productivity, increases errors, slows you down, can be perceived as disrespectful, distracts you, decreases the quality of the task itself, causes stress, and leads to burnout.” Ultimately, you’d be at the bottom of the cliff nursing injuries with Wily Coyote.

In fact, come to think of it, most of the time, we are not even multi-tasking as we are led to believe (don’t ask me who led you, but, as Michael Jackson said, look at the man in the mirror).

No, as the article here informs. “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once. But instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching,” it quoted Cynthia Kubu, PhD, a Cleveland, US-based neuropsychologist.

In the Time magazine article she co-wrote, she pointed out a few impacted factors, namely attentiveness, learning, and mindfulness. She points out the value of mono-tasking, specifically among fellows of her medical profession—surgeons.

“The proficiency of surgery is the ability to single-mindedly focus on a single patient and complete a series of tasks, all in the pursuit of a given outcome that may take many hours to finish.

More worrying is the health factor. Many studies have found that, among others, it contributes to chronic stress, depression, social anxiety, and, my personal favourite, memory problems. And many more, including “device-induced distracted walking,” as termed by the New York Department of Transportation—it simply means a phone-using driver is four timesmore likely to, again, meet the same fate as our friend Wily Coyote there.

Then, there are less serious health concerns than being flattened by vehicles, like, for example, an increase in stress or just plain burnout. It holds you back from getting a promotion.

Forget the workplace; the educational institute has issues with multi-tasking, and students have been known to perform poorly. A study done a decade ago (imagine, even then!) noted that 38% of students were unable to go beyond ten minutes without checking their phones or other devices.

What can be done?

Well, if you can’t handle it, don’t do it. Take things one at a time, as they (we?) used to do back in the old days. The difference between watching movies on your TV and in the cinema is that you are engrossed and enveloped by that one film you are watching in a theater hall where you are completely cut off from the real world, and there you have no choice but to put your goddamned phone on silence mode or risk being hit by well-aimed popcorn. Plus, there’s no remote control.

In fact, if we are able to do that even in places of worship, it is possible to do so when we are manoeuvring in traffic or listening to the boss berating the underlings at a meeting.  We can.At the end of the day, multi tasking is just about you being a jack of all trade and the master of the pain in your own rear. – NMH

Other articles by the writer:

Hollywood, Politics, Propaganda And Brainwashing
2023 Horror Year In Review: A Passable Sequel In 2024

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