Un-taxing Multitasking

“Do you know how to multitask?”, is a question that I have been asked in a lot of job interviews. And I always went “who doesn’t?” Was I being cocky? Maybe. But seriously, aren’t we now living in the times when one has more than 3 completely unrelated tabs in their browser and 4 different apps on their phone open at any given time?

Or so I thought. Until I actually got to multitasking in the professional realm; which is not the same as browsing through Instagram while listening to music. This fleeting experience made me sit down and look at the definition of multitasking.

How many of you knew that true multitasking involves the active participation of the brain in all tasks?

Let me clear this first. I am not even going to indulge in the debate that measures the good and bad of multitasking. Let’s leave that to one of my peers who will take up the topic when they don’t have anything better to talk about. I am not the proponent of the multitasking that encourages people to drive and text at the same time. But cooking while reading? Why not!

Now that that has been said, did you know that effective multitasking is almost a myth? You’re probably thinking, whhhhaat. I multitask. But I am focusing on effective multitasking. No thoughts there? Well, congratulations because effective multitasking is kind of an oxymoron.

oxymoron: a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

Psychologists will tell you that the brain does not really multitask. It can only actively think about one task, and one task only, at a given time. So when we say we’re multi-tasking, we are just making different parts of our brain share the time frame in which we are indulging in more than one task.

And yet, many people suck at multitasking. That happens when, in addition to actually doing the tasks, we stress the brain to give equal and simultaneous attention to all the tasks at hand. That is taxing for the brain. And that is why, in most cases, we end up doing none of them.

Untaxing Multitasking

Okay, I am very proud of this phrase I came up with. I shall use it as much as I can. But anyway, we’re moving into a time when multitasking is a necessity. So we need to figure out ways to achieve that. Well, I kind of did that for you.

No learning

Juggling multiple tasks at one time doesn’t really fit well when the agenda is to learn something. Mastering something requires brain’s dedicated attention. Don’t make your brain work harder than it has to, dude. It pays well to multitask when you want to execute rather than absorb.

Mix and Match

Contrary to popular belief, pairing two different kinds of tasks together yields in increased productivity. Okay, so your brain will have to adjust its neural network for contrastingly different tasks. But at least the difference won’t interfere with the tasks and redundancy will be out the window. A win-win.


Yep, I did that. I threw the P-bomb. Many of us are misguided by the belief that multitasking doesn’t require prioritizing. Because we’re doing them all at the same time. Well, no. Even when you multitask, you take up one task over the other and that, my friend, is prioritizing. Weird, right?

But seriously, focus on the relative importance each task has and then figure out then go about it.

That’s pretty much all there is to multitasking. If you know of more ways of being better at it, tell me!

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