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Is Multitasking A Lie?

m+ multitasking is a lie

Last week I talked about the Six Lies Between You and Success.

Let’s review them:

1. Everything Matters Equally.

2. Multitasking.

3. A disciplined life.

4. Will power is always on will-call.

5. A balanced life.

6. Big is bad.

If you are going to maximize your full potential than we must put these lies to bed.

The first lie I covered last week, Everything Matter Equally. To summarize, it’s using the 80/20 rule to narrow down doing the most important task first and take it to the extreme by focusing on the 20% of the 20% of the 20% to narrow down to the most important thing. The imperative ONE. The ONE Thing.

Sometimes it’s the first most important thing you do. Sometimes it’s the only thing. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.

NOW, let’s look at one of the biggest obstacles I have regarding focusing on doing too many things at once. I always feel that I need to to have two or three projects on the go. If not, I don’t feel I’m accomplishing enough or achieving the results I want to grow. I have to say when I hear that multitasking is a lie I just don’t want to believe that anyone can be successful or at a high-performance level without being able to work on a number of tasks at once. Believe it or not, here is why I am wrong.

In 2009, Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University, set out to find out how well so-called multitaskers multitasked. So he and his team of researchers gave 262 students questionnaires to determine how often they multitasked. They divided  their test subjects into two groups of high and low multitaskers and began the presumption that the frequent multitaskers would perform better. They were wrong.

Professor Naas thought they had some secret ability, but he determined that high multitaskers were suckers for irrelevancy. They outperformed on every measure. They had convinced themselves and the world that they were great at it, but to quote Professor Naas, “they were lousy at everything.”

* [If you want to learn more of this Stanford Univeristy study go to Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows.]

Multitasking is a lie.

It’s a lie because most of us accept that it’s an effective thing to do. It’s mainstream that people think it’s  something they need to do and often as possible. More than six million websites offer how to do it, and career website list “multitasking” as a skill for potential employers. We have adopted this skill as a way of life, but the truth is it’s neither efficient or effective. In a world of results, it will fail you every time.

Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” –Steve Uzzell

Multitasking actually came from computers because it was derived from the fact they could quickly perform many tasks. We think computers can process a number of things at one time, but the fact is they can only process one piece of a code at a time.

People can actually process two or more things at once but what we can’t do is focus on two things at once. We think we can and should multitask. Kids studying while texting, watching tv, or listening to the radio. People driving while talking on the phone. The fact is we feel we need to do many things in the time we have. So we double and triple everything up to get it all done.

Every time we try to do two or more things at once, we are just dividing up our focus and dumbing down the outcomes. Here’s a list of what The ONE Thing teaches on how multitasking can short circuit us:

1. There is so much brain capability we can use at once. Divide it up and you will pay the price in time and effectiveness.

2. The more time you are switched to another task the less likely your are to get back to the original. This is how loose ends pile up.

3. Bounce between tasks and your brain reorients to the new task. Researchers say we lose 28 percent of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.

4. Chronic multitaskers develop a distorted sense of how long it takes to do things. They always estimated it takes longer to complete than it actually does.

5. Multitaskers make more mistakes than non-multitaskers. They often make poorer decisions because they favor newer information over old, even if the older information is more valuable.

6. Multitaskers experience more life-reducing, happiness-squelching stress.

Researchers tell us, with the use of computers now, workers can check email, change windows or other programs nearly 37 times a day. Be distracted several times a day sets us up to make bad decisions. Some say they actually experience a high – a burst of dopamine – that can be addictive. Without they feel bored. I admit at times that happen with me. The results are multitasking slow is downs and make us slower witted.

To sum up:

1. Distraction is natural. Everyone gets distracted.

2. Multitasking takes it toll. At home or at work, distractions lead to port choices, painful mistakes, and unnecessary stress.

3. Distractions undermine results. When you try to do too much at once, you end up doing nothing well. Figure out what matters most and give it your undivided attention.

In order to put the principle of The ONE Thing to work, you can’t buy into the lie that doing two or more things is effective. Though multitasking can be done its just very difficult to achieve the best results you need to be successful.

I love to hear from you and know your thoughts? Do you agree multitasking is a lie?

If you have any questions drop me a note. I would be glad to help. 


Greg Johnston
The Mentor+ Project and Hitch+

A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him rise to the top.” – Simon Sinek

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