Is Multi-tasking a myth?

In today’s world, being busy is something to brag about. “I don’t know how you do it all,” is taken as a compliment. Women, especially, take pride in their ability to multi-task. Multi-tasking is a coveted skill, but is it actually a myth? Studies have found that only 2.5% can actually do it effectively.

What we call multi-tasking isn’t what it may seem. Multiple studies over the last several years have shown that multi-tasking is basically impossible. One neuropsychologist says, “When we think we’re multi-tasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching.” You may ask, “Isn’t that basically the same thing?” Apparently not. The fractions of a second that it takes to switch our attention add up over time, and may even cause lasting focus issues in our brains.

This sort of task-switching hinders our performance, making us less efficient and more likely to make mistakes at each task we’re attempting to complete. Over time, we become so good at deceiving ourselves into thinking we are being productive, that we feel deceptive satisfaction in the work that we’re doing. This leads to the desire to continue to attempt to multi-task. Without realizing it, we the inefficiency and errors are creating more stress, which we attribute to “busyness,” and the cycle continues.

Not only is multi-tasking impossible, it can be deadly.

While this may cause stress in our daily lives at work and at home, the stakes are even higher on the road. According to the American Psychological Association, “Psychological research is showing that when drivers use cell phones, whether hand-held or hands-off, their attention to the road drops and driving skills become even worse than if they had too much to drink.”

These studies are precisely why Maine passed Law L.D. 165 – An Act to Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices while driving, in 2019. In this law, using a handheld electronic device for phone conversations or texting earns a hefty $250+ fine. Multi-tasking infographic

In 2019 in the United States, over 3,200 people were killed as a result of distracted driving. Even a hands-free phone call can divide our attention enough to make a deadly mistake behind the wheel.

Experts suggest that we can break the multi-tasking habit by focusing on one task a time more often. Over time, our brains will adapt and it will be easier to achieve. Our focus will improve and our stress levels will go down.

Why not start this new healthy habit by turning off your phone while you’re driving? You’ll be saving lives while you are improving your well-being.

Driver behavior is the leading cause of crashes, but also the easiest problem to fix.