Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Multi-tasking is Productive…NOT

By Cathy Kuzel on Nov 29 2012 • Filed under The Connected Woman

Multi-tasking may not be as productive as you think. (Photo)It's a little like texting, talking, monitoring your GPS, and attempting to change lanes while you’re driving – something will go wrong because nothing has your full attention. 

Studies have shown that doing several things at once is an illusion our brain creates to make us think we're getting more done. We don't actually multitask. We switch-task. In other words, our brains have to jump back and forth, rapidly shifting from one task to another. 
According to Professor Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the real problem occurs when we try to perform similar tasks at the same time – such as writing an email and talking on the phone – as they compete to use the same part of the brain.This causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity and our productivity goes down by as much as 40%.
The same study also found multitasking has a negative physical effect, prompting the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. Studies by Gloria Mark, an ‘interruption scientist’ at the University of California, show that when people are frequently diverted from one task to another, they work faster but produce less. After 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people report significantly higher stress levels, frustration, workload, effort and pressure. 
The obvious reason to focus on one task at a time is for efficiency, sanity and society. But if you insist, at least follow these guidelines:
  • DON’T do it in the afternoon. The multi-tasking brain generally struggles hardest in the afternoon. Post-lunch fatigue added to the strain of multi-tasking often causes overload. 
  • MEDITATE. Research shows meditation makes brains more efficient at paying attention, so there is brain power spare when doing two tasks at once. 
  • PRACTISE multi-tasking with simple tasks. We can improve our performance when the jobs are easy.


Now Go Get Connected!


Cathy Kuzel (author of Are you a Collector or a Connector? is a professional speaker and trainer on sales, customer service, professional development and a guru at networking. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ConnectedWoman). Also check out her story archive and website.


  1. Great insights, Cathy!

    Thank you for showing us that multitasking is really nothing but an illusion created by our brains. I hope Webster will adopt the term switch-tasking! :) Since you mention meditation as a great way to become more efficient, I would like to add a very quick and simple way to integrate meditation into everyday.

    Every time you find yourself tempted to switch-task, take a moment to breathe, then imagine rising above, up into the sky. From the bird’s eye’s perspective look down on your day, your project or your challenge at hand. From up there you will be able to identify the next step. Come back down and take action accordingly.

    Thanks again for sharing your insights, Cathy!
    Julia James

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