Very Interesting ~ But Stupid

“Multi-tasking: screwing everything up simultaneously.” – Anonymous

Buttons!

Buttons! (Photo credit: s.red)

Read something recently that explains everything. Especially for those of us who brag that we are “multi-taskers”. From the cofounders of Button Up, “a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized” come these words of surprising “time management truths”: multi-tasking “impairs intelligence and hurts efficiency.”

The “Button Up” girls,  Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore wrote an article called the “Nine never changing laws of managing your time”. Number five dealt with multitasking. They said that researchers at the University of Michigan “have shown that multi-taskers actually take longer to finish work than those who did each task sequentially.”

What really piqued my interest though was their provocative statement that “top-tier institutions like UCLA have shown that switching between tasks impairs our ability to learn and even impairs our IQ more than smoking marijuana.”

Admittedly, some things by their very nature fall into the category of  multi-tasking. Take cooking–it is multi-tasking at its most elevated level. Seriously–when you are fixing Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the fixings—if you follow the theory of the “Button Up” girls, and do everything sequentially, then you would have dinner ready by Christmas.

Modern technology also lends itself very neatly to multitasking. We can do laundry, run a load of dishes through, talk on the phone, all while making scrambled eggs. The only danger here is that you will run out of hot water, or start stirring the eggs with the phone, which could get a bit messy.

Apparently a study was done with high multi-taskers and low multi-taskers, and the former underperformed, had trouble filtering out distractions and in the end had a poorer memory.

As the holidays approach, we are getting into the ultimate multi-tasking time of year. Unless Santa’s elves come to our rescue, most of us are going to underperform, be distracted, and not remember things. But what is the alternative? Unfilled stockings? A one course Christmas dinner? No presents wrapped? So many times we are given a problem, and the solution may not be the best, but it is the only one. I don’t know about you, but I will not be giving up multi-tasking anytime soon.

So are you a high multi-tasker or low multi-tasker? Can you get everything done for the holidays without multi-tasking?

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75 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I find this strangely comforting – I am definitely on the low side!

    • then that is a good thing–you are a clear thinker and remember things! two things that escape me-lol

  2. I don’t really stress out about the Holidays, it is everything else on my plate that panics me. (smile) Mulitasker– yes I suppose I have to be although I try to do things sequentially. My memory is awful lately– is it multitasker syndrome or hormones?

    • I so do not understand hormones, but I so like blaming them for my erratic behaviour–I cannot see a way to accomplish everything without multi-tasking, though when I do just take one thing on at a time, my mind clears up and I can focus

      • your mind clears up? Ohhh I am so jealous :)

      • well, it only happened once (lol)

  3. This makes me feel good – my poor brain has never been able to handle more than one task at a time. Even then, I probably operate like I’ve been smoking something questionable.

    • it is not that I can handle multi-tasking, but I do it anyway–I think I have trouble getting bored with one task

  4. High multitasker – always.

  5. I think I’ve evolved as a multitasker only because I was forced to, being a mom of young kids. I don’t like being one, though. I think my true nature is one thing at a time. I can get very focused and intense with my tasks.

  6. Uh, the holidays are almost here…now you tell me! I knew a girl who didn’t know that Christmas fell on the same day every year. I asked if her birth date changed and she gave me a weird look. Still don’t think she got it.

    • ha ha ha – my birthdays fall on the same day- but I am staying the same age–I have been 29 for 30 years now

      • I can never remember my true age. for years when people asked me how old I was I would say, I’ll be 23 next year. since I always added a year, now I no longer know. And I think i got off track and stated adding 2 years, not just one. If people ask, I tell them my birth year and let them figure it out. Too much work

      • my mom always thought she was a year older than she was

  7. I am always being panic in such a special days…. :)

  8. This is a great post and really made me think. I know, that’s scary isn’t it? Part of me agrees with what the Button Up Girls said because sometimes I think my multi-tasking results in more confusion as I jump to another task and forget about the first one LOL!! However, I also think that today’s fast and stressful world makes some multi-tasking imperative or we would never get everything done. I know I am multi-tasking all the time, but sometimes I think it makes me more stressed!

    • I think it depends on the task–but I have been known to forget something in my rush to get everything done too

  9. I so agree with you Lou, multi-tasking is just what we do….I don’t like it but I don’t know of an alternative that works. I do know that when I try to get a multitude of tasks done….some that are started don’t always get finished. I’ll blame that on hormones, thank God we have an excuse for memory loss.

    • I agree- you have to multi-task in order to get some things done–but some things do get left by the wayside

  10. Having raised 5 kids, I became a Pro-Multi-tasker early on.. Now that they are grown up, I can r-e-l-a-x !!

  11. I’d rather not multi-task, but as you said, there really is no alternative. With a house full of company for a week at the holidays, the to-do lists are very very long….. :)

  12. I am not surprised to hear this. It makes complete sense.

  13. Interesting post, LouAnn. I’d say I prefer not to multi-task, but can do it when needed. While I agree that cooking a meal is kind-of multitasking, it just requires focus on cooking and I don’t try to do anything else while in the midst of that. I’m blessed to have a job that requires focus and attention – that is I’m a bodyworker (Rolfer and Physical Therapist). I see people for a full hour and I get to be focused on them the whole time. It’s a meditation for an hour. So I think that keeps me from multi-tasking at work. And then when I’m at home writing, I don’t like to listen to music or watch TV. My brain needs to be able to focus. This post helps me understand why. Thank you.
    Cathy

    • I have to have silence when I write too–I am afraid though that when I cook I do try to do other things too–and it has not been pretty!

  14. I can multi-task at a variety of levels, provided one of the tasks involves a cocktail shaker and there’s a fire extinguisher to hand. Does that count?

  15. i quickly discovered i’m a terrible multi-tasker on my first day at a waitressing job. i much prefer “zen” type tasking, focus on one thing and find some fulfillment from it

    that said, i love to cook but it will challenge me when there are juggling of many steps involved. again working in a restaurant was proof that i can’t take the heat, so i got out of their kitchen. now i plan and schedule big meal prep well in advance, like get most of the chopping done ahead of time and even measure the spices. i figured out there’s a reason chefs invented ‘mise en place’ ~ so they don’t lose it and/or screw up.

    for me the big problem with multi-tasking is any time constraint. if 10 things need to get done in 10 minutes, no thanks heh heh

    • it is challenging–and I think after a while we realize what we can and cannot multi-task–I though have not reached that point yet

  16. I’m not which one I am. I’m too busy on the phone, having a coffee, and watching telly while replying to this…

  17. I got too much ADD, ADHD or whatever that kicks in all at once and I need to focus on one thing and make sure that I get it done correctly. Just me.

    • I think that is probably the way most of us work best – my husband has AADD–(he thinks I do too–and he could be right)

  18. I’m definitely a slow multi-tasker these days, but I used to be a lot faster at it. I will continue to multi-task. Can’t help myself. :)

  19. I’m a fast multi-tasker. I get incredible amounts of “work” done this way. I go into auto pilot mode and just do what I have to do. Maybe I’m missing out on something, like stopping to smell the roses? I do have a difficult time relaxing but the trade off is I get finish things. I think I need to find a little more balance. I think what you said is true – some things, like Thanksgiving dinner and preparing for the holidays, need to multi-tasked. Children and relationships, not so much! haha!

    • I so agree with your last statement–I need to go into full multi-task mode right now and stop procrastinating

  20. I used to pride myself on being a multi-tasker when I worked until I realized how bad it is for you. Even since I have retired I still catch myself trying to balance too much at one time. I guess old habits die hard.

  21. I thought multi-tasking was considered a normal way of life. I know of no other way. Children begin learn as they grow. Studies as you know can be skewed just about any way that the researcher wants. I believe this after reading so many research articles that were not a part of my job but considered an asset for ones’s performance rating. To get even higher marks it was good to become part of a research team. I thought it was all a bunch of hooey.

  22. I have always been a high multi-tasker. It’s something that began in childhood. I can do somethings very well, like watch a movie and crochet at the same time (I’ve even been known to read while watching sports), but other things are a little more dangerous. When I was a working single mom there was a point when I only had one day off a week. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my boys so hurrying through the chores one Sunday morning I did one thing too many and ended up with a broken bone in my foot.

    I have been trying to catch myself and stop when I find myself doing more than one or two things at a time, but I haven’t been totally successful. The most recent screw-up was just a few weeks ago, I was writing, decided I wanted a cup of hot tea. No problem, my mind was still totally on my writing when I filled the pot with water. When I went to put the lid on I found the electrical cord inside (where I store it) completely submerged in the water.

    • shoot–there went that pot of tea for a while–I do stuff like that all the time–I do not hide plastic cookie boxes in the stove anymore though

      • That must have been interesting…not

  23. I call myself a flitter rather than a multi-tasker. But what you said is true, it takes me forever to get something done.

  24. My multi-tasking days are gone….I don’t have the energy or concentration to do so any more but of course the years of raising a family, working full-time and doing other things I had to do so…as I think most women do…I don’t mean that men don’t but I think women do it more …sorry if you’re a man reading this. It is strictly my opinion…lol Diane.

    • they say that women are more multi-tasking than men–so you are certainly in the ball park about this one

  25. I heard a similar quote, something to the effect of, “Multi-tasking in doing multiple things poorly. Look at all the comments you have here. You hit a nerve!

    • I think we have a hard time getting around multi-tasking even if it is not the best way to do things!

  26. Excellent post. I do multitask, and not very well…

  27. I’d like to consider myself an organized multi-tasker. I have a method to my madness & haven’t gone mad…yet ;)

    • ah, I like that — a method to your madness–that is where I have gone wrong–I have no method, only madness

  28. I am a high multi-tasker when I need to be. When I need to concentrate on something like software testing I can switch to that gear. My husband says my memory is too good so I think he might disagree with the study. :)

    • I think I disagree with it too–as someone else mentioned in the comments, studies can be manipulated

      • Absolutely. Plus you need to know who is sponsoring the study and their interests.

      • very true–good point Bernice!

  29. I question multi-tasking: I would say I am a high multi-tasker but on the other hand are we really multi-tasking or just swiftly changing from and between tasks…as we actually can only ever do one thing at atime…so what really is this multi-tasking….is it just a severe lack of ability to do one thing until it’s completion before moving on rather than having several things going at once and quickly swapping from one to the other???? :)

    • some good food for thought here–it is true that we really can only do one thing at once, maybe we get bored

    • thanks for all the likes and comments–I appreciate you taking the time to do this :)

  30. How interesting! I actually probably would have said the opposite – that multitasking is a trait associated with good memory! How else can you keep track of more than one thing going on at a time??

    But maybe that’s just because I’m a high-multitasker and don’t like to think of it as having a negative effect on my ability to learn :P

    • I think I am just going to throw these studies in the waste basket–I really see no way in a woman’s life that she cannot be a multi-tasker–I think we are wired to be able to do several things almost at once

  31. A Low-multi.I am I like that!

    I will just spin my wheels if I try to do too much at any one time..

    The holidays are a time when I put all self-expectations away My own gift. Its not a fun or even spiritual time for me if I am just spinning.I do not unrealistic goals that I stress myself out over trying to meet.

    I have worked really hard at taking the commercialism out of my holidays mainly because I complained about others (shops putting Christmas decorations and gifts out before 10.31) so much I was talking out only one side of my mouth Doing a double standard.
    Now I am one of the most laid back people you might run into at this time of year I will have it so that i do not even have to be in a single store after 12.1.But not by me mufti-tasking for sure.

    Great post and by the by.. Happy Holidays~

    • Sounds like a good way to be – I am trying to be more laid back about things–nice to have a handle on things isn’t it?

      • I thought about this after and then have been side tracked .. see what I mean?
        I have to add to be honest and fair. I did not develop this calm before the Christmas Storm until my two daughters became adults and moved from home. There is no way this freedom would have worked while they were at home.So in reality it took me just about 24 years to learn. Slow learner but when I get something I get it for good.

  32. I just read an article about time management that said multi-tasking is not a good strategy…who knew?! I had just about perfected this, and now I learn I’m not really helping myself! Slow down! ~ Sheila

    • I think slow down is a good thing–last night, while I was multi-tasking I almost set the kitchen on fire–that set me back a bit–all is well though–I caught it in time, but I had been in the basement doing laundry and came up to find flames–the stove top got turned on inadvertently when I moved some pots and pans to get them out of the way (putting them away would have been a better idea)

  33. I gotta say, I used to be a multi-tasker, but I read something similar to what you’re writing about not too long ago and ever since then (mostly in an effort to save my very forgetful brain) I have tried to do tasks sequentially whenever possible. And do you know what? For the most part, it has helped with my ability to remember things…and it has given me a sense of accomplishment because I’m actually finishing tasks instead of having a bunch of things going on at the same time and very little of anything being accomplished.

    • that is a great testimony to not multi-tasking–usually when I multi-task I have an accident especially in the kitchen–keep those knives away from me!


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