I don’t advocate multitasking for situations that require significant creativity — like writing; or when you are learning — listen up students!; or when you are engaged in a physical activity that requires detailed coordination and reaction — mountain climbing, for example.
But multitasking for everyday tasks can save you significant time and increase your productivity. You can do the dishes and talk on the phone at the same time. (Use a headset.)
A new study reported in the journal Science helps explain why we can do two things at once with little difficulty, but three tasks is too much. This LiveScience article summarizes the study’s findings:
…when faced with two tasks, a part of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) divides so that half of the region focuses on one task and the other half on the other task. This division of labor allows a person to keep track of two tasks pretty readily, but if you throw in a third, things get a bit muddled.
“What really the results show is that we can readily divide tasking. We can cook, and at the same time talk on the phone, and switch back and forth between these two activities,” said study researcher Etienne Koechlin of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France. “However, we cannot multitask with more than two tasks.”
- Driving while listening to educational audios
- Lifting weights while listening to educational audios
- Talking on the phone while doing stretching exercises
- Talking on the phone while cooking or cleaning
- Watching television while I massage my sweetheart Stephanie’s feet
In what situations does multitasking increase your productivity? In what situations should multitasking be avoided?