The Myth of Multitasking (or The Truth About Multitasking)

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    Inspired by Merlin Mann's podcast of the same name.

    Further supplemented by this and likely many other articles and blog posts saying the same thing. So stop multitasking!

    ario_, Robin Lu, moleitau, and 47 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. SteveWrightNZ 115 months ago | reply

      so how do you change gear and let the clutch out and manage the throttle and watch the traffic behind and in front simultaneously ? How do airline pilots carry out basic functions such as balancing turn-rates onto beacons simultaneously ? How do helicopter pilots manage a seemingly impossible task ? (ever tried it?) Mutlitasking is normal part of life, but sophisticating it to the absurd is not going to help. S.

    2. Tim Morgan 115 months ago | reply

      I hope it's pretty clear I don't mean for anybody to stop simultaneously performing the individual mini-tasks of driving a car or flying or whatever you've trained to do. Of course, many day-to-day activites require multiple separate acts of the mind, hands, etc. This diagram refers to those who insist on typing a letter while talking on the phone, or talking on the phone while trying to drive safely, or any of the other millions of fundamentally disparate tasks we try to cram into a small period of time. It simply doesn't work. And for those who make it work, I challenge you to try doing things one-at-a-time, and just see if it takes more or less time than trying to perform several tasks at once.

    3. blork 115 months ago | reply

      That's exactly it. When the tasks are related (clutch, gears, throttle, etc.) they're really sub-tasks of a larger task (driving). But when the tasks are unrelated (driving and talking on the phone), or in conflict (listening to a speaker while trying to read a text-heavy powerpoint slide), the brain simply can't handle those multiple levels of conciousness very well, with the result that neither task are accomplished very well.

    4. flapjack640 115 months ago | reply

      I must say though- it does look like it is a picture of the myth of multitasking- not an illustration of the truth about multitasking.

    5. Tim Morgan 115 months ago | reply

      Ahh, good catch. I have updated the title as suggested.

    6. GoogleEyes 115 months ago | reply

      I wanna know what any females have to say, as we all know that there are also myths and facts surrounding the different abilities of the female vs male brains in terms of multitasking (like talking, while driving while applying makeup while tending to the kids... ;) - the truth must be out there.

      (a serial mono-tasker)

    7. jchinique 115 months ago | reply

      I just wanted to comment as I was breastfeeding the baby and reading my feeds, while waiting for some files to print and sketching out some ideas for an illustration; but I forgot what I was going to say.

    8. Indy Gump [deleted] 115 months ago | reply

      I've always had a one track mind! Whatever I'm truly focused on seems to work pretty well. The instant I let my mind wander or attempt to do something else concurrently I loose track of what I was originally doing and everything gets messed up. About 2 years ago a doctor told me that I had A.D.D. and I thought that explained it.

      I'll have to show her a copy of your image and see what she thinks! I think you're right, as far as I'm concerned. What I have isn't a deficit. It's probably just the way things should work for me! :)

    9. chloe's mom 111 months ago | reply

      i second jchinique's post

      (found by Flickr degrees of seperation group. You are link#7 Please add your photo to the group and play along)

    10. thatguyeric 104 months ago | reply

      Just got back to this and wanted to reply to an early question - the reason pilots can talk and fly and navigate, or the reason drivers can shift and steer, is because the tasks are using separate parts of your brain.

      For example, you couldn't practically drive and type, as they're both physical tasks with overlapping requirements. You likewise can't type a letter and speak on the phone (effectively) because both require cognitive input - I know that I often type the first letter of the next word I was going to say rather than type.

      So, 'multitasking' when you're doing disparate tasks with similar requirements is actually not possible.

      There's your fun human factors knowledge of the day!

    11. th3_grav3k33p3r 98 months ago | reply

      Another reason for bosses not to boss around.

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