Best Practices

State of Ingenuity SourceLink: Multitasking is a Relic

Published Mar 04, 2014

Multitasking is a relic of the 20th Century. As late as 2001, The New York Times was touting multitasking as the next big thing. The working theory: By doing many things at once, people could be more productive.

In reality, the human brain processes one complex task at a time. Multitasking is not doing two things at once, it is switching back and forth between two things, with a certain amount of lag time with each switch. The more tasks juggled at the same time, the more time gets wasted.

Numerous studies from the 21st Century show that those who try to do several things at one time can overload the brain’s working memory. Despite constant attempts to do so, most people just aren’t very good at multitasking. Here is an overview from

Multitasking Brain Psychology

Douglas Merrill says that some multitasking works, but only with rote tasks that don’t require much brain power. See Why Multitasking Doesn't Work  for more.

James Clear, writing for, suggests that you eliminate divided attention between the task at hand and environmental influences. If you are not focused on the task at hand, the task typically takes longer.

Time management is a difficult skill to achieve. Clear also advises the following

1)     Aim to tackle the most important task first. Some productivity can be achieved if the most important task is completed first before unforeseen circumstances arise.

2)     Finish scheduled tasks even if scope is reduced. Even if time restrictions reduce the scope of the task, completing daily goals can turn small goals into lifetime habits. See  Three Time Management Tips for more.

Clear provides additional information on How to Achieve Your Goals at  as well as How You Can Form Good Habits and Stick to Them at.

For additional time management tips, check out 10 Time Management Tips That Work by Joe Matthews at  and these other links:

Content contributed by Earle Young, State of Ingenuity SourceLink (Wisconsin/Illinois). State of Ingenuity SourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S. SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.