Dan Harris: It's Impossible to Multitask

The ABC News Correspondent discusses the myth of multitasking. "We literally neurologically cannot do more than one thing at a time," says Harris.

Dan Harris: What I love about this notion of multitasking is people brag about how good they are at it. In fact, it’s a lie. It’s a lie we’re telling ourselves over and over again. I have a friend named Janice Marturano who’s a former executive at General Mills and she now teaches meditation to corporate executives all over America and all over the world. As she pointed out to me, multitasking is a computer derived term. Computers have many processors. We have only one processor. We literally neurologically cannot do more than one thing at a time.

So every time you think you’re multitasking, essentially that’s a short way of saying you’re doing many things poorly. What I’ve learned to do – and it’s hard – is to try to do one thing at a time. So if I’m on the phone I turn off my computer monitor and actually listen, radical as it may sound, to the person to whom I’m speaking. If I’m working on a story at work, writing a story, I shut down my email and try to actually focus on what I’m doing. And what I’ve found is that I move through my tasks in a much more rapid way, in a much more effective way and I’m doing a better job. Now I’m not gonna lie to you, there are times when we have to multitask. There’s no question about it. Things get so hectic in my office and I’m sure in the lives of anybody who’s watching this where multitasking becomes impossible to avoid. I found myself walking down the hallway the other day with a glass of water hanging out of my mouth and I’m typing away on my Blackberry and walking at the same time. So I’m a huge hypocrite on this score, there’s no question about it. But I do my best to avoid it because I know I do my best work when I’m only doing one thing at a time.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

 

ABC News Correspondent Dan Harris explains why anyone who boasts about their ability to multitask is lying to themselves. "We literally neurologically cannot do more than one thing at a time," says Harris, who instead defines what we consider multitasking as "doing many things poorly."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less