Let’s Stop Pretending We are Good at Multi-Tasking

I like to multi-task. I like to think I’m good at it and I like to get a lot of stuff done in a short period of time. But when it comes to multi-tasking during meetings and conference calls, I know I’m just not good at it… and I’m betting that you aren’t either.

We tell ourselves that we are great at multi-tasking. “I can read my phone, watch tv and eat at the same time,” a friend confidently told me. I think these tasks are likely effectively done together but then she said, “I can drive my kids to school, conduct a conference call and get groceries all in 1 hour.” I’ve been on the other side of those calls and they aren’t productive. Here is what happens:

  1. The person that is multi-tasking is constantly asking for details to be repeated.
  2. The calls go twice as long because of the above-stated repeating and are less productive.
  3. The multi-tasker misses the actions that they are responsible for.

Here’s the scientific reason why we aren’t good at multi-tasking … even though we think we are:

When you need to pay attention, the prefrontal cortex of the brain begins working on a single goal and coordinates messages with other brain systems. Adding another task forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently and in turn, we forget details. In fact, according to a study by scientists at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Paris, multitaskers make three times the mistakes when given two simultaneous tasks.

Let’s all consider single-tasking when in meetings or other settings that require our full attention. Who knows, maybe we can get through meetings in half the time if we all start to do one thing and focus.

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