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Singletasking: the Antidote to Multitasking


This delightful word recently crossed my path courtesy of a short magazine article (the only kind I usually manage to both begin and finish these days).

Perhaps my inability to commit to longer magazine articles is because I am too busy multitasking.

According to singletasking guru Devora Zack, this is a common problem. She says the problem arises because our brains are not wired for multitasking.

And when she says “not wired” she means it literally. 

According to neuroscientists, the best our neural connections can do to approximate actual multitasking is to speed up the rate we switch between different tasks. If we get good enough at reducing the time it takes us to switch from one task to another, we might be able to fool ourselves (or even others) into thinking we are “multitasking.”

But we’re not.

What we are doing instead is lowering our IQ, shrinking the amount of grey matter in our brain, and decreasing our productivity as much as 40 percent.

I don’t know about you, but my productivity doesn’t need any help in the decreasing department.

And the rest of me is seriously bummed out that I will never get any better (or any faster, at least) at serving my parrot his breakfast and simultaneously keeping my baby tortoise from escaping from my office yet again while fixing my chai tea and checking my email each morning.

However, Zack does point out certain advantages to embracing singletasking.

For instance, I get to enjoy lunch again (on account of how when we work through lunch, apparently we actually get less done).

I also get to spend at least 15 minutes relaxing before I go to bed each night – this because the University of London states that making time for 15 minutes of rest will equate to being 24 percent more productive the following day.

(Of course the natural next question then becomes – if I rest for a whole hour will I become 100 percent more productive? Because I’m willing to make the sacrifice there – no matter how much rest it takes!)

Ultimately, what Zack and her university and neuroscientist friends seem to be asking us to do is commit.

We are being invited to commit to each person and each task in front of us.

We are being asked to show up – in body and in mind – for each experience or interaction.

We are being encouraged to let our emails pile up and our phones beep, ping or buzz….all in the interests of improving our own productivity.

And it may just be me, but I have to say it anyway – in all this, singletasking sounds uniquely well positioned to improve our lives in the process.

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever wondered how good you are at multitasking in relation to others? Have you ever wished you could get better at it so you could get more done? How do you feel about knowing that the human brain is not set up to multitask at all, let alone to get better at it? What is your initial reaction to “singletasking?” Great? Not so great? Jury still out?

Woman working photo available from Shutterstock

Singletasking: the Antidote to Multitasking

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). Singletasking: the Antidote to Multitasking. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2020
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