Monday, November 10, 2014


The myth of multitasking

It’s a phrase that we hear in job interviews, write on resumes and read on job descriptions — ability to multi-task. It’s almost as if your career hangs in the balance if you aren’t able to do several things at once.
But let’s take a moment to focus — literally. As it turns out, multitasking is not as productive or efficient as once thought, according to recent research.
This is the best news I’ve heard since they proclaimed dark chocolate is good for you.
It seems like the older I get, the harder it is to multitask.  This inability to keep up with the constant barrage of emails, phone messages, blog posts, deadlines, mandatory meetings, etc., has made me feel inefficient and disorganized.
Not so, says Jim Taylor, PhD, writing for Psychology Today.  Dr. Taylor reports that a summary of research examining multitasking on the American Psychological Association's website describes how so-called multitasking is neither effective nor efficient
These findings demonstrate when you shift focus from one task to another, that transition is neither fast nor smooth. In fact, this constant shifting can take up to 40% more time than single tasking — especially for complex tasks.   Whew!  I feel vindicated.
Here are six tips to increase productivity and avoid multitasking.
•  Prioritize:  Learn to organize tasks into distinct categories and levels of difficulty.  Tackle the most important things on the list first.
•  Focus:  Put all your attention to the task at hand.  Do one thing at a time and see it through to completion.  
•  Limit distractions:  Close your door, block off a chunk of time that you are unavailable, and limit your ability to interact with others except for emergencies.  When I was faced with an impending deadline, I used to tell my kids, “Don’t interrupt me unless your hair is on fire.” 
•  Unplug:  Silence cell phones, don’t read or reply to e-mail or Facebook postings, and turn off the radio or TV. 
•  Don’t procrastinate:  This may be the hardest thing of all.  Seize the moment and plunge right in.  Once you’re on a roll, it will be easier to continue.
•  Reward yourself upon completion of a major task:  Something small, but satisfying, should be your reward, whether it is a walk around the block, reading a chapter in a favorite book or 15 minutes of mindful meditation.
Since I read that it’s healthy, I am rewarding myself for completing this health column by eating an ounce of dark chocolate.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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