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The Myth of Multitasking

How “Doing-It-All” Gets Nothing Done

By Dave Crenshaw
10-minute read
Audio available
The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing-It-All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw

The Myth of Multitasking (2009) reveals an important truth: that the concept of multitasking is a lie that we’ve been buying into for far too long. The truth is that the human mind is not built to divide its focus, and if you want quality work done in an efficient, timely manner, you need to take things on one at a time.

  • Overworked entrepreneurs and company owners
  • Parents and spouses who want to spend more time with their families
  • Stressed-out readers

Dave Crenshaw is a highly sought-after business coach who has helped improve companies around the world. His writing has appeared in publications such as Time magazine and the Washington Post. His fourth book, The Power of Having Fun, is due to be published in the fall of 2017.

© Dave Crenshaw: The Myth of Multitasking copyright 2008, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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The Myth of Multitasking

How “Doing-It-All” Gets Nothing Done

By Dave Crenshaw
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
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The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing-It-All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw
Synopsis

The Myth of Multitasking (2009) reveals an important truth: that the concept of multitasking is a lie that we’ve been buying into for far too long. The truth is that the human mind is not built to divide its focus, and if you want quality work done in an efficient, timely manner, you need to take things on one at a time.

Key idea 1 of 6

There’s no such thing as multitasking, only active and passive switchtasking.

These days, with more ways than ever to be connected and communicate with one another, it can feel like there’s an endless supply of tasks that demand to be juggled all at once.

Appropriately enough, the traditional way of dealing with multiple tasks at once was to multitask.

But here’s the thing: multitasking is a lie. A more accurate name for this method of working is switchtasking, and it is an inefficient and inadequate way of getting things done.

The human brain is an impressive thing to behold, but it doesn’t perform well when you attempt to focus on more than one thing at a time.

There are plenty of studies to back this up, including a recent one from Vanderbilt University. Researchers couldn’t find a single piece of neurological evidence to suggest that the human brain is capable of taking on more than one task at a time.

What the brain can do is switch back and forth, from one task to another. It can do this quickly enough to give you the impression that it is multitasking, but what it is really doing is switchtasking.

Now, there are two different kinds of switchtasking: you can either make active switches or passive switches.

Active switches happen in situations you create yourself, such as deciding to check your e-mail while talking to someone on the phone. These would be switches that you are actively making.

Passive switches happen in situations that are initiated by something or someone else. An example of this would be when you’re facing a deadline and, in the middle of preparing documents, a coworker decides to stop by and start talking to you. Here, you’re being asked to switch your attention between the documents and your coworker.

In the blinks ahead, we’ll take a closer look at why these switches are so harmful to your work and what you can do to reduce them in the workplace.

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