Multi-tasking gets a bad rap. And rightly so... mostly.
You've likely heard some of the damning evidence against
multi-tasking. We now know that humans aren't actually capable of this
without incurring some kind of cost to the tasks at hand. What
multi-tasking really equates to is switching rapidly from one task to
another, resulting in neither (or no) task being performed to the best
of our ability. Multi-tasking has also been blamed for a decreasing
attention span and a newfound inability to block out distractions.
This is what the overwhelming research tells us, and I don't deny it
to be true. Most of us have probably done it on occasion and may have
witnessed these effects ourselves. That said, there's a time and a
place for multi-tasking. And when applied correctly, it can help you
push through the more mundane parts of your day.
As a general rule, any task that can be done "on
auto-pilot" is a prime candidate for multi-tasking. However, this
is providing you don't require the same senses to perform
both tasks. Most successful multi-tasking combinations include one
task that requires the attention of your eyes, and one task that
requires the attention of your ears.
Here are a few task combinations that get my tick of approval. These
will help you learn more every day, and help make some activities more exciting.
Listening to music is an especially good accompaniment to other tasks
that don't require you to rely solely on your hearing. This is because
it's processed, in part, by a different zone in your brain. So there's
less cross-over than with most other activities competing for your attention.
Hopefully you didn't just read this blog title and decide that
driving while texting is a great idea. There are many times when
multi-tasking is less than ideal. But that still leaves many scenarios
where it can be a useful, practical and time-saving tactic. Don't be
so quick to disregard the opportunity that may lie in combining simple
visual tasks with simple auditory tasks. Ultimately, isn't cleaning
your house more fun when you're chatting away to a friend? Aren't
movies better with popcorn? Isn't being stuck in traffic more bearable
when listening to your favourite podcast? And isn't dancing a hell of
a lot more fun if you're playing your favourite song?
I rest my case.