The Fallacy of Multitasking | Psychology Today Canada

The Fallacy of Multitasking | Psychology Right now Canada


That is the fourth contribution in my collection Past Stress and Burnout.

What number of instances have you ever been requested throughout a job interview, “Are you a great multitasker?” or “How do you juggle a number of duties directly?” How usually has your boss mentioned that you might want to multitask higher to be extra productive or tackle extra duty? Or maybe you’re feeling the necessity to continually juggle many competing duties on your time and consideration at residence.

What number of of you might have listened to your partner whereas concurrently checking if that textual content that simply got here by means of is vital? Generally we consider that we’re inundated with so many duties that we should multitask to finish them.

Source: drawlab19/FreePik

Supply: drawlab19/FreePik

So, is multitasking a great factor? Let’s assessment if multitasking works, take into account what occurs psychologically once we multitask, and canopy strategies for coping with multitasking. However first, what’s multitasking? Multitasking consists of the next:

  1. Engaged on a number of duties concurrently.
  2. Switching forwards and backwards quickly amongst duties.
  3. Performing a number of duties in fast succession.

Does Multitasking Work?

Based on analysis and my private {and professional} expertise, the reply to this query is an awesome no! The human thoughts will not be wired to multitask. It’s evolutionarily scripted for mono-tasking.

Analysis has repeatedly and persistently discovered that multitasking will not be possible with human cognitive functioning (Jeong & Hwang, 2016; Madore & Wagner, 2019). To take this one step additional, in a single research, solely 2.4 p.c of individuals had been discovered to have the ability to multitask successfully (Watson & Strayer, 2010). And most fascinating, Sanbonmatsu et al. (2013) reported that individuals who assume they’re good at multitasking are literally not good at it!

People don’t multitask effectively, and when an individual says that she or he does multitask effectively, she or he might be fallacious. The human mind can solely deal with one factor and one factor solely at a time.

You may attempt to multitask, however analysis reveals that it lowers productiveness, will increase errors, slows you down, may be perceived as disrespectful, distracts you, decreases the standard of the duty itself, causes stress, and results in burnout (Bellur et al., 2015; Jeong & Hwang, 2016; Madore & Wagner, 2019; Sanbonmatsu et al., 2013; Watson & Strayer, 2010; Weschler et al., 2018). But, we preserve multitasking. That is what I seek advice from because the fallacy of multitasking.

What psychologically prevents us from multitasking?

Three psychological classes clarify why human cognitive processing will not be adept on the idea of multitasking.

Evolutionary neuropsychology – Though society has developed fairly quickly, our brains haven’t. They nonetheless function as if we stay on the plains of Africa, combating for survival from predators and competing clans. To allow our survival, our brains direct all assets to 1 factor – detecting threats.

You can’t deal with discovering the lion that can eat you if you are concurrently distracted by smelling stunning flowers. So the mind directs all consideration to finding unfavorable stimuli (these issues that may kill you), which explains the idea of negativity bias. When you stray from specializing in one process, it results in cognitive dissonance and stress because it goes in opposition to evolutionary neural processing.

Reminiscence processing – From a high-level context, reminiscence includes working, short-term, and long-term neural processing. When you find yourself centered on one process, all three elements of reminiscence are engaged by finding and interesting advanced neural pathways to deliver up your expertise, schooling, and information required to deal with the present process.

While you introduce a brand new process (that textual content message that interrupts you), your present reminiscence recall is deserted, and also you begin the complete course of anew with the brand new process. This causes cognitive confusion and distraction, resulting in errors and slower processing instances.

Cognitive stress – Multitasking causes a stress reactive response, additional degrading cognitive processing. When the sympathetic nervous system engages, many hormones and neurotransmitters are launched (See my publish on psychoneuroimmunology). Dopamine and noradrenaline (amongst different electroneurochemicals) trigger prefrontal cortex responsiveness to degrade, permitting the amygdala to grow to be centric.

You then react to feelings, and your logical reasoning and functioning are inhibited. This coupled with the reminiscence dysregulation mentioned above results in higher process deficiency, error, and slowness. Moreover, as frustration with process efficiency will increase, stress will increase additional, inflicting a vicious cycle.

These three psychological limitations to multitasking result in the idea of process change prices, that are the unfavorable results ensuing from switching amongst duties. We encounter process change prices (e.g., slower completion instances, elevated errors, decreased high quality) due to the elevated psychological demand brought on by divergent process saturation and the mind’s incapacity to maneuver seamlessly amongst multitasking situations.

What to do about it?

Six steps may help you to realize management of the perceived have to multitask.

  1. Cease attempting to multitask! Acknowledge that multitasking will not be efficient. Take management and make a psychological dedication to not fall into the multitasking fallacy.
  2. Triage and Prioritize. Deal with one process, full it, and transfer on to a different process. This sounds easy sufficient, however when bombarded with a number of competing duties and distractions, it’s essential to enact a triage and prioritization course of, specializing in what’s most vital first.
  3. Put aside time for like duties. For instance, reply to emails or texts at sure set instances (not as quickly as they provide you with a warning).
  4. Restrict distractions. Establish your probably distractors and attempt to eradicate their potentiation. For instance, flip your telephone/texts off whereas engaged on a undertaking.
  5. Assist out, bosses. If you’re a boss, implement practices that lower the stress staff really feel to multitask. For instance, have a strict no texting coverage throughout conferences, don’t require speedy responses to texts once you ship them, and encourage staff to shut their doorways when engaged on a undertaking.
  6. Care for your self. Typically, we multitask as a result of we’re overwhelmed by competing wants and are attempting to get every thing carried out. To higher deal with the multitude of wants, we have to decelerate our cognitive processes and scale back our general stress. The time spent on self-care will dramatically enhance your general productiveness and happiness.

By avoiding multitasking, your outcomes will enhance, your productiveness will improve, you can be much less confused, and you will see that higher work and life satisfaction.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *