February 16, 2020

The myth of multi-tasking

Multi-tasking man

This is the fifth in a series of tips on how to handle crazy busy and not get caught up in the ‘fear’ of failing to handle it, and the resulting stress chemicals.

Fifth tip: The myth of multi-tasking

You probably know people who say they can multi-task, and people who say they can’t.

Here’s the way I think of it.

We have both conscious and subconscious parts to our mental processing.
The conscious part has a single processor, so for tasks that require our conscious attention, we time slice, that is, we switch between tasks to focus on them in turn.
The subconscious part has multiple processors so we can run multiple tasks that don’t require conscious attention, like tying a shoelace, on autopilot. We can multi-task at the subconscious level.

Many tasks we do, like driving, are a mixture of both types of processing. If you are driving on ‘automatic’ and something on the road occurs beyond what the automatic processing can handle, the conscious mind must take over, apply focus, and run the show.

I am sure you have experienced this switch from ‘automatic to manual’ and noticed that whatever your conscious mind was processing has gone, except for some shreds left in short term memory.

When we time slice, that is, switch tasks, we lose momentum on the task just rotated out of the processor. We must spin it back up to speed when we return to it seconds, minutes or hours later.

“Now, where were we?”

How can you reduce the time-slicing you do to maintain focus for longer on tasks that are important?

A side benefit is that you will use less brain energy using longer cycle serial focus that short cycle time slice focus.

My best wishes, Paul

Paul Matthews

CEO and Founder of People Alchemy

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