Myths and Truths of Multitasking

Myths and Truths of Multitasking

Jimena Aguilar – August 23, 2016

We are used to do several things at the same time, such as talking on the phone while sending emails. The maelstrom in which we are immersed in these modern times invites us to perform several tasks at once, but is multitasking actually increasing productivity?


I remember that in previous years it was common to find job offers in which one of the requirements was to be “multitasking” (in fact, there are still some job portals that ask it even today). However, studies have shown that trying to do “all at once” does not save time, quite the contrary, it increases the duration to complete an activity compared to doing one by one.

This kind of behavior changes our brain concentration points almost imperceptibly. These jumps affect our efficiency since it takes us longer to complete an activity compared to doing it one at a time. Of course, we are not considering behaviors or activities that we unconscious, such as breathing. Each task requires a specific skill, so it is better to finish one before starting the other – even while eating!

Being distracted while eating, prevents our brain to fully process what we are eating, which can be translated in overeating. If this happens with an activity we might consider simple, what else are we missing while attempting multitasking with more complex activities? How many traffic accidents are caused by talking on the phone and driving at the same time? Or how many accidents have happened because people were walking and chatting at the same time?

Our focus should be selective; in the book Only ONE Thing, Gary Keller mentions a Chinese proverb that illustrates this perfectly: The one who chases two rabbits, remains with any. It is impossible to do two activities simultaneously because the brain is unable to perform two cognitive activities at the same time. When we try to accomplish all at once not only will it take us more time but it will wear us down mentally.

Besides not being productive while doing more than one activity at a time, it leads us to make more mistakes. A common example is when we are writing on the computer while having a conversation … surely we will end up writing something about the conversation.

Finally, studies have found that all these negative effects persist even after multitasking, resulting in a lack of constant concentration and creating more stress, even when we are doing nothing.

I invite you to focus on ONE thing at a time. You will be more productive and you will lower your stress levels!