Multitasking is pretty much seen as a necessity in the modern world. The ability to do several things at once – even if it’s something as apparently simple as emailing and talking at the same time – is taken for granted. However, the belief that engaging in several tasks at once means we are more productive is a myth. Instead of saving time, multitasking not only takes longer but also makes mistakes more likely.
The myth of multitasking may not be a surprise to some. A quick turn around the streets of a busy town will soon tell you that some people find simultaneous texting and walking, let alone texting and driving, a bit of a challenge. Children and adolescents, with their rapidly evolving and elastic brains, are particularly vulnerable to such changes. The brain does not have enough connections to be performing two complex tasks at the same time. Even something as seemingly innocuous as listening to music while doing homework causes students to lose focus.
For students, multitasking does not end with listening to music while doing homework. Taking notes while listening to a teacher also counts as multitasking, as does listening to a teacher while using an electronic device in class. Multitasking is hence integral to quite a few aspects of life and needs to be consciously addressed moving forward. How do we tackle this though?
Ideally, teacher instruction – or input – should be in short bursts of 10 or 20 minutes, each followed by the students expressing what they have learned, either through discussion, notes or actions – the output. This essentially means that we need to have focused times, albeit short ones for singular tasks before we can move forward to another one.
For many teachers – and their students – this is quite different from the way they are used to doing things. With the amount of distractions which surround the current generation, it is worth a shot to be following this methodology of focusing for short bursts of time.
The rest of us need to realize that while we may think multitasking is a good use of our time, if any of the tasks involve a clear need for focus, we should not be deluded into thinking it makes us more productive. Remember, being busy is not equivalent to being productive.
You could invest your time in working on your focus by using methods such as the Pomodoro technique or Timeboxing. You could also work on diversifying your skillset and deliberately practising to become better at the multiple things you do in case you feel that multitasking is inevitable.
Work on your skills with platforms which offer the opportunity to do so like Unschool.