Multitasking--Can it Give us More Time?

By Lori Redman, faculty member at American Public University

Multitasking: we all do it and swear we are good at it. We rave about the amount of time it saves us. We point out how we can accomplish so much more by tackling two things at once. While multitasking is a part of our lives, it is important that we make conscious decisions of which type of tasks can be done well when multitasking and which ones should be avoided at all costs.

According to Douglas Merrill, a Forbes magazine contributor (2012), multitasking comes down to a question of brainpower. Our brains are not wired to take on two different tasks at the same time. In order to remember what we hear, information must be transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory. This can only be successfully accomplished when the information is accurately stored in our short-term memory. Multitasking can prevent this from happening because we cannot absorb two different ideas from multiple sources simultaneously.

Simple things like cooking dinner and talking on the phone can easily be done with positive results since only one requires brainpower or focus. However, working on your computer and carrying on a conversation with someone is another story. These two activities require our undivided attention in order to retain anything we read or discuss.

There is no denying that society today is moving at a faster pace. Employers have higher expectations of the amount of work that can be accomplished by their employees because of technology. Combine this with our own willingness to take advantage of this technology to add even more to an already busy schedule of school, work, and family, and multitasking looks like the perfect answer.

However, it is not the answer to help us find more time every day. Multitasking can ultimately create more work and stress as we redo the things we did not focus on and ask again for information we weren’t able to process.

Take the lead at work or home and demonstrate how much better your work can be done when you focus on only one thing at a time that requires brainpower. You may just be the one to start a new trend.

About the Author

Lori Redman has taught COLL 100 for American Public University since Spring 2012. Her experience includes working in Japanese and French schools,  private language schools, teacher training, a 4 year university, and adult basic literacy. Lori has worked online since 2009 as a teaching assistant and instructor.

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