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."

Modern society is as unequal as 14th century Europe

As bad as this sounds, a new essay suggests that we live in a surprisingly egalitarian age.

Getty Open Content
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new essay depicts 700 years of economic inequality in Europe.
  • The only stretch of time more egalitarian than today was the period between 1350 to approximately the year 1700.
  • Data suggest that, without intervention, inequality does not decrease on its own.
Keep reading Show less

You are suffering from “tab overload”

Our love-hate relationship with browser tabs drives all of us crazy. There is a solution.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
Technology & Innovation
  • A new study suggests that tabs can cause people to be flustered as they try to keep track of every website.
  • The reason is that tabs are unable to properly organize information.
  • The researchers are plugging a browser extension that aims to fix the problem.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

Epicurus and the atheist's guide to happiness

Seek pleasure and avoid pain. Why make it more complicated?

Credit: Antonio Masiello via Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • The Epicureans were some of the world's first materialists and argued that there is neither God, nor gods, nor spirits, but only atoms and the physical world.
  • They believed that life was about finding pleasure and avoiding pain and that both were achieved by minimizing our desires for things.
  • The Epicurean Four Step Remedy is advice on how we can face the world, achieve happiness, and not worry as much as we do.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast