Multitasking is A Bunch of Malarky

Posted on Oct 23, 2012 by 4 Comments
Multitasking is A Bunch of Malarky

Hey all you multi-taskers out there. Yeah, I’m talking to you ladies and gents trying to juggle the email, laundry, mac and cheese on the stove and Martha Stewart-ing your table top within an inch of it’s life…guess what. You’re not multi-tasking. There is no such thing. So just give it up and do one thing at a time.

OK, maybe I’m talking to myself. Just a little bit.

Did you know that your brain cannot do two things at once. Oh, well, I’m lying a little bit. You can breathe while you cook dinner. Or you can pee while you check that e-mail. But try focusing on two things and once and your brain is actually serial tasking. It’s jumping from one distinct thought to the next very, very fast. But it’s not simultaneous.

Like when your kid watches TV while doing homework. He’s not actually doing two things at once…he’s doing homework for like 2-3 seconds, then his eyes take in the TV, then back to the homework, back to TV. Jump jump jump.

Or so it is according to Dr. Jim Taylor who has a new book out called Raising Generation Tech. In his book, he sights this exact experiment done with a group of students. When asked how many times students looked up at the TV within a 1/2 hour, they responded that they looked up 15 times.

The researchers who tracked their studious eyeballs counted 120 times. That’s a pretty big difference! And all that jumping around isn’t great for knowledge retention. I’m just saying.

Now I know most parents don’t typically think watching TV while doing homework is the best idea. But think of this, most kids these days (BTW, I love how I just generalized all our children, as if they are all the same!) do their homework while some other screen is in front of them: iPhone, iPad, computer, TV, or even music. Always checking in, checking up. Add all those distractions together and there is no way homework wins.

My point is this: there is a time and place for all of the distractions fun we have in life, and if we could just slow down and do one thing at a time, our brains would be happier. Maybe we’d even be happier. Possibly smarter. That’d be a good thing.

The takeaway for me, aside from pondering my own media policy for my children so that it benefits THEM and not ME, is this…doing everything at once is accomplishing nothing. Except guilt. Multitasking is great at sharpening my guilt sword.

What do you think? Are you a multitasker? Is it working for you?

photo credit: Mike Licht,

Posted in: Health, Parenting

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  • Hutch

    Kate–wholly agree. Recently I was in an art gallery when a group of teens on an art tour came in. First thing they did was whip out their iPhones and check or send messages. Little or no attention was paid to the art on the wall. I thought: what a missed opportunity. I see the same thing in restaurants, where supposed grownups ignore their companions and their food to spend time on their mobile devices. What is so important that we cannot enjoy the experience at hand because of the need to be in instant communication with someone not at the table? Leave your cell phones and iPods at home, just once, and smell the roses. It won’t kill you.

  • Julie C.

    Well, I know that all that time I spend daydreaming about taking a nap I could put together and actually HAVE the nap … so I know that your brain can’t really process two complex tasks at the same time. It’s been proven. You are just distracting yourself and not doing well at anything.

  • Amy

    I absolutely believe that some people simply can’t multitask. I, however, work best when I’m multitasking and wonder if a lot of the problems people have multitasking aren’t really rooted in procrastination . . .

  • modernbaby

    I know! The only problem is that it seems our society has become addicted to “being connected” at the cost of actually being connected. Or maybe it’s just the new normal and we’ll have to find ways to adjust to it. I dunno. But it drives me bonkers, too.