Multi-tasking is bullshit

How many job descriptions have you seen that says “Ability to multitask a must?” Personally I have always thought that “multi-tasking” was bullshit. Oh, sure, you could have several projects open at once but if you flit tirelessly from one to another, you are engaging in what we used to call “thrashing” way back in computer science, that’s spending so much energy moving between tasks that you have very little energy left over to actually do the task.

In a job interview I’m certainly not going to shoot myself by saying, “actually I suck at multitasking.” I usually skirt that question by saying, “I can multitask with the best of them,” which is not a lie, because I truly believe that no one is much good at it. When faced with several problems to solve, I do it the old fashioned way: Which one is going to cause the most pain if it isn’t solved. Then I allocate a specific amount of time to work on it and I don’t take phone calls, IM’s or go facebookin’ until I have got something accomplished.

16 comments to Multi-tasking is bullshit

  • Certain amount of multitasking has become necessary and expected in many industries, and job seekers often list the ability to multitask as a skill on their resumes…
    Even students also find this skill very valuable, since it allows them to take notes while processing lecture information, or work on homework for one course while thinking about another.

  • I did the exercise in multi-tasking mode in 52 seconds. I made 1 mistake. In the second round doing one project at a time I did it in 18 seconds without any mistakes. While I’ve known that multi-tasking is less productive, I wouldn’t have said that it is 3 times less effective before doing this exercise.

  • admin

    Old Dodge, I’m not saying you have to completely finish and sign off on each task before moving to the next one. It is possible to be working on two tasks at once and there is a right brain percolation process that sometimes kicks in with a solution when you least expect. It is a good skill to know when you can zone out in a lecture and do something else. But I put to you it’s not multitasking. True multi tasking is only possible with parallel processors. While the human brain does have many processes running on there is only one leftbrain step by step problem solving processor and, just like a single processor in a puter, it can only focus on one program at a time.

  • I could do multi-tasking, and I think I’m pretty good at it. While working, I play an online game and chat with my friends. And I believe, I’m still productive. But I got your point man.

  • I think I am really good at prioritizing my work and efficiently getting it done. I think as you alluded to in your above comment, this is probably what a lot of people mean by multitasking and I agree it is not really multi-tasking.

    I also take an approach of what is going to offer the biggest headache and try to get it out of the way first, so I can relax more as I finish the other stuff.

  • IF one is doing same task continuosly then surely he or she will be bored therefore multitask work will give them change in there work style and behaviour too. But at same time if you do your same task regularly you will be master of that but i agree with multitasking ability.

  • Proper, computer like multitasking, sure. Our processor (brain) theoretically has 2 cores (halves) but they don’t communicate and aren’t really optimized for multitasking.
    Still there are people that can manage to do several things at the same time, and manage them well. I admire that

  • It is an utterly stupid idea that women are better at multi-tasking and has no basis in reality whatsoever. Prove me wrong.

  • admin

    Athsma: Akismet flagged u, which means your comment is prolly a pointless spam, but I approved it anyway for the purposes of discussion. BTW, My post said NOTHING about women being better at multi-tasking. Women–especially mothers–may be required to multi-task more, (or more precisely, may be more interrupt-driven due to the nature of their work) but that doesn’t mean they are any better at it.

  • Hahahahah – This is quite a can of worms that you guys are opening here. Women can and do multitask very effectively, whilst us boys struggle to do more than one thing at once. That is my personal experience, and I stand by my observations.

  • my brain isn’t wired to multitask and it is how it is… so i guess that’s a point for asthma.. yes multitasking has become a huge part in many people’s lives whether they are in school, on their jobs, homes etc.. but i’m gonna have to agree with the guy from point b, finishing off each task before doing something else is much more ‘efficient’ than doing many things at once… oh that smiley is still there…

  • That’s why message forums are so wonderful – you can have asynchronous conversations.

    I think for multi-tasking you have to consider the difference between synchronous vs. asynchronous tasks. It’s really hard to multitask when you have to pay attention to a bunch of different things constantly. But if you have to (to use a non-workplace example) cook dinner, do laundry, water garden… well they are all asyncronouse with time gaps in-between tasks.

  • adt

    I think multi-tasking is a skill learned in the past. Today’s generation grows up in a multi-task environment. School is much different now and technology allows for multi-tasking to be an after thought. Thanks for the post.

  • They say women are better at multitasking then men. Probably due to the fact that women were made to take care of a baby while doing other things.

    I agree with you though multitasking is B.S

  • I play an online game and chat with my friends. And I believe, I’m still productive. But I got your point man.

  • Khendra

    I am a woman and I can’t multi-task to save my fucking life. I am so sick of the damn stereotype that women are great multi-taskers. I see guys around me all the time who talk on cell phones while driving – WTF? While driving, I can’t even hold a conversation with a live person in the car let alone hold a fucking phone!

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