In today’s world, the term ‘multi-tasking’ has become a misused word rather than a valued skill. What most of us are doing when we talk about multi-tasking is actually switching tasks. 

If you are having people over for lunch, you will have to consider multiple things; how many spaces you need, what food you will serve, when and where you will go shopping, etc. You have to focus on multiple tasks in order to achieve one overall objective. This is multi-tasking. 

Switching tasks on the other hand doesn’t have a common focus. Switching tasks, like checking Facebook while emailing your friend and sitting in front of other people having coffee, slows us down dramatically. 

Psychologist Megan Jones at the University of California, Berkeley, had author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang count from one to ten as quickly as possible. She then asked him to recite the alphabet from A to J. He did both in 1.5 seconds. Then, she asked him to alternate between numbers and letters – “one, A, two, B” and so on. The switching took the author 4.5 seconds – three times as long to complete. 

It is okay and even beneficial to multi-task when each task is part of the same overall objective. However, switching tasks, in today’s super busy environment, is never a good idea as we are ultimately taking 2 steps back in order to try and take one step forward.

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