Hi, my name is Bill, and I’m a (blush)…Monotasker.

(Son sees parents sitting on sofa): “Are you guys okay? Why are you doing that?”

(Mother): “Doing what?”

(Son): “You’re just sitting there not texting, checking email or anything!”

(Mother): “We’re watching a movie, Jeremy!”

(Son, sitting on ground with head on arms on knees, confiding to a friend): “My parents are monotaskers.”

(Friend): “It happens. Don’t blame yourself.”

– Zits (5.18.2016)

I confess, I am and always will be a monotasker. I was born that way. I’ve tried to change, friends have offered advice, but God forgive me, I am what I am, and I’ll never be a multitasker. And if you look down on us monotaskers, like something is seriously wrong with us, read on.

“A summary of research examining multitasking on the American Psychological Association’s web site describes how so-called multitasking is neither effective nor efficient. These findings have demonstrated that when you shift focus from one task to another, that transition is neither fast nor smooth. Instead, there is a lag time during which your brain must yank itself from the initial task and then glom onto the new task. This shift, though it feels instantaneous, takes time. In fact, up to 40 percent more time than single tasking – especially for complex tasks.

“A recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by three Stanford University researchers offers perhaps the most surprising result: those who consider themselves to be great multitaskers are in fact the worst multitaskers. Those who rated themselves as chronic multitaskers made more mistakes, could remember fewer items, and took longer to complete a variety of focusing tasks analogous to multitasking than those self-rated as infrequent multitaskers. In a recent interview with NPR, a co-author of the PNAS study, Clifford Nass, states, ‘The shocking discovery of this research is that [high multitaskers] are lousy at everything that’s necessary for multitasking.'” (Psychology Today, 3.30.2011)

I remember when multitasking became all the rage and a required standard for employees. Many boses still demand it, perhaps out of necessity due to corporate desires to make more profit by downsizing their workforce, requiring employees to double (triple) up on the workload. Big mistake, it winds up costing more in the long run.

So strike a blow for commonsense – the next time someone wants you to do two things at once, cite the above study, tell them you can’t and ask which task has priority, you’ll get to the second one when you can, and if that doesn’t work tell them roll up their sleeves and start helping.

It’s either that or try to explain why your evaluation scores are so low in job performance.

– Bill


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