Multitasking Myth

Photo by Katerina Holmes on

I used to be able to do it. I did it for years and it was necessary for my job. But now, I’ve lost my ability to multitask. I used to be able to re-direct three students while assessing another student, walk across the room to grab a missing worksheet, and drink my tea. All without tripping over my own feet! Now, I have to stop walking to sip my tea. What happened?

Multitasking Was Always An Illusion

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Apparently, no one can multitask because the brain is not capable of focusing on two things at the same time. What I was doing was switching quickly between a number of different tasks. It’s more like juggling. As your brain struggles to switch quickly before the next ball comes down, you are more likely to make mistakes. I often picked up the wrong worksheet, called a student by the wrong name or spilled my tea. Activities actually take 40% longer to do when you try to multitask instead of doing them one at a time.* In a busy classroom, it was more important to keep responding to all the demands at the same time, then worry about doing each one perfectly. Juggling with some balls dropping felt necessary.

Shifting Away From Multitasking

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There are plenty of articles out there explaining that as I age my brain will have more difficulty multitasking, but is that a bad thing?  For many years, businesses were obsessed with having their workers multitask. What a great way to get more work out of one person! But now, they are starting to realize the cost to the quality of work created, if workers are juggling between assignments. They are starting to appreciate that doing one thing at a time is more productive.** I am the wave of the future! As I age, being able to focus on one task instead of being distracted by many, is a strength.

Single Focus

Vindication for older adults! I can focus on one project at a time, without being made to feel like I’m not functioning as well as I did.  Juggling is hard for everyone and it’s not a worthy goal.

Photo by Anna Shvets on

*Why you can’t multitask. Click here to read the article.

**Unlearning Multitasking. Click here to read what a business coach is advising.

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