The Risks and Myths of Multitasking

Have you ever been in the middle of one project when suddenly you had the overwhelming urge to start something new at the same time? Do you talk on the phone while you are driving? Then you, my friend, aren't alone. You are a multitasker (someone who performs two or more tasks simultaneously). A 2007 survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance showing that 72 percent of drivers say they do other things while driving (driving while distracted [DWD]), like using a cell phone, eating or drinking. Driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near crashes. Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some form of DWD within three seconds before the event - the most common cause - the cell phone. Seems so preventable, doesn't it.

Being and doing one thing (at a time) well and choosing to be present helps us come alive, literally and figuatively. But somehow multitasking has taken over our lives. How often do you check your Facebook account, read email or make dinner while you're talking on the phone? Did you know these actions compete with one another to use the same part of the brain? This leads to concentration problems and a sense of brain overload. Chronic multitasking can lead to a combination of brain challenges ranging from depression, memory challenges and rage in adults to attention-deficit disorder type behavior in children. And for both adults and children multitasking causes considerable increases in stress.

What happens if you choose not to be a part of the numb flock of sheep mindlessly existing in the cultural trance of mediocrity? According to researchers at UCLA Medical School, NOT multitasking allows the brain to pause, which enhances neural connections in the cortex humanitatis, the part of the brain that makes us civilized, loving and compassionate. You'll actually become more efficient, less anxious, sleep better and improve your overall quality of life.

In 2006, Ulla G. Foehr, Ph.D. of the Henry J Kaiser Family foundation published a paper on Media Multitasking Among American Youth. Multitasking might include watching television while texting and listening to music; texting, surfing the web, and doing "research" for a school assignment; texting, Facebooking, and Snapchatting. Kids are growing up on this behavior. Compare this to the premillennial years when multitasking may have looked like talking on the landline phone while watching television or cooking dinner. Computer-based multitasking typically all target the same area of the brain (prefrontal cortex), competing for input and response. What researchers have found is that there may be an upper limit to the amount of brain tissue than can be activated at the same time. This equates to less ability to concentrate fully on any one of those activities while you are still engaging in multitasking. Bottom line is that multitasking may be impeding learning and retention in our youth.


  1. I can get more done if I multitask.
  2. There aren't any risks with multitasking.
  3. Multitasking helps channel my ADD.
  4. Multitasking doesn't effect the quality of my work/performance.
  5. It's okay for women to multitask because they're better at it.


  1. Multitasking has been criticized as a hindrance to completing tasks or feeling happiness.
  2. Because the brain cannot fully focus when multitasking, people take longer to complete tasks and are predisposed to error.
  3. Multitasking may affect the ability to comprehend content.
  4. Multitasking decreases memory retention.
  5. Multitasking increases risk for depression.

Changing the multitasking mindset begins with making a commitment - to yourself, to your family, to your friends - whoever will inspire you to keep the commitment. Designate several media-free zones in your home so that when you are reading or doing homework, that is all that you are doing in that area and you can be free of distraction. Create a cell phone "box" where you place your phone during certain agreed upon hours - perhaps it is right after school or work until after dinner or until after homework is complete. Designate the weekdays as television-free. Your cell phone may have a "do not disturb" setting. Program it so that you have uninterrupted quality time with yourself and your loved ones. Set little reminder notes around your home, sticky notes in your car or on your computer that remind you to do one thing well at a time. You may just be amazed at how much more productive you become.


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