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YOUNG PEOPLE ASK

What Should I Know About Multitasking?

 How are your multitasking skills?

Do you know how to multitask—to do several things at the same time? Many people think that those who are growing up with technology—sometimes called “digital natives”—can multitask better than the “digital immigrant” older ones who adopted technology later in life. But is that really true?

TRUE or FALSE?

  • Multitasking allows you to get things done faster.

  • With practice, you can improve your multitasking skills.

  • Young people can multitask better than older people.

If you responded “true” to any of those statements, you may have been fooled by the “myth of multitasking.”

 The myth of multitasking

Do you think you can do two things at the same time? You might be able to combine some activities without losing focus. For example, if you listen to music while you clean your room, your room will probably look OK.

But when you try to do two tasks that require concentration, both are likely to suffer. Perhaps that’s why a young woman named Katherine defines multitasking this way: “The ability to mess everything up at the same time.”

“I was talking to someone and then received a text message that I needed to respond to. I attempted to do both. As a result, I missed most of what the person who was speaking said and I misspelled almost every word in my message.”—Caleb.

Technology expert Sherry Turkle writes: “When we think we are multitasking, . . . our performance degrades for each new task we add to the mix. Multitasking gives us a neurochemical high so we think we are doing better and better when actually we are doing worse and worse.” *

“Sometimes I think I’m doing a great job texting one person and talking to another person, until I realize that I’ve just responded to a text message out loud and I’ve texted what was supposed to be a verbal response!”—Tamara.

People who try to multitask make life unnecessarily hard on themselves. For example, it usually takes them longer to complete their homework. Or they might have to spend time redoing work that they thought was finished. Either way, multitaskers end up with less free time to do the things that they want to!

For good reason, psychotherapist and school counselor Thomas Kersting says: “If you look at the brain as a file cabinet that neatly stores necessary information, the brains of high multitaskers are a mess.” *

“The more tasks you do at once, the more details start to fall between the cracks. In the end, you may just be creating more work for yourself and wasting the time you thought you could save.”—Teresa.

Trying to multitask is like trying to drive on two roads at the same time

 A better method

  • Train yourself to focus on one task at a time. That might be challenging, especially if you are used to combining activities—studying with texting, for example. But the Bible tells us to “make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) Not every task has equal weight. So decide which one comes first, and concentrate only on that task until it is completed.

    “An unfocused mind is a lot like a toddler; sometimes you have to tell it no, even though it would seemingly be easier just to let it have what it wants.”—Maria.

  • Eliminate distractions. Are you tempted to check your phone while studying? Put it in another room. Turn off the TV, and don’t even think about social media! The Bible says: “Use your time in the best way you can.”—Colossians 4:5, Easy-to-Read Version.

    “I’ve found that it’s so much better for me to focus on one thing at a time. That way, I’m even happier when I can scratch off that task on my to-do list and move on to the next one. That’s what I call job satisfaction.”—Onya.

  • Give conversation your undivided attention. Tending to your phone while talking to someone is not only counterproductive but also rude. The Bible tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated.—Matthew 7:12.

    “Sometimes while I’m talking to my sister, she is texting someone or doing something else on her phone. It annoys me to death! But to be truly honest, sometimes I do the same thing!”—David.

^ par. 10 From the book Reclaiming Conversation.

^ par. 13 From the book Disconnected.