LiveWell: The Misconception of Multitasking

LiveWell: The Misconception of Multitasking

Open up your math book; check your email. Flip to a blank page in your notebook; reply to the text message you just received. Do your first math problem; refresh your Facebook newsfeed.

This continuous cycle resembles the everyday routine of the average high school student. We’ve heard over and over again that multitasking is inefficient and wasteful – a mere detriment to productivity; and yet, we still do it, day after day, week after week.

We trick ourselves into thinking that we are being productive by doing many things at once, when, we are actually hindering our progress. We inevitably fall into the deceiving trap of multitasking, often taking hours to finish a task that could have been completed in minutes.

Multitasking produces a lag time between responsibilities that makes it hard for our brains to function at their full potentials. According to a study conducted by the Center for Brain Health, concentrating on one task at a time renders the greatest success rates. While this form of work is pervasively advocated, is it truly practical?

Last week, I tested the theory one evening after school. I shut down my email, phone, and Facebook account, and made a list of tasks that I needed to complete. Then, I tried my hardest to focus on each task with my full attention and without any distractions.

I finished all of my homework early that day, and definitely felt more organized than before. But, unfortunately, I did slip up; I sent a few text messages to friends and listened to some music throughout the course of the night. But, these blunders led me to new conclusion.

Yes, ideally, it would be great if we had the capacity to single-task without diverting our attention to anything else. But, the truth is, this is frankly unrealistic.

The fact of the matter is that multitasking is ultimately unavoidable due to the nature of our modern generation. With so many variations of new technology – text messaging, cell phones, email, etc. – it is difficult to completely block these interferences from our lives; they have become entwined with our daily routine.

The key is limiting the extent of the multitasking that we engage in. Deactivating unnecessary distractions, such as Facebook and Instagram, for designated amounts of “work time” will provide the initial steps towards efficiency and single tasking. In order to be more successful in the long run, we must become more aware of the relationship between our intended goals and our concrete actions.

Anokhi Saklecha’s (11) column “LiveWell” will appear on alternate Fridays, exclusively on Harker Aquila.