distraction, multitasking, overrated, serial skilling, vintage

The multitasking myth

Your phone calendar bleeps a 10am meeting. The WhatsApp party debrief pings every 3 seconds. You need to order that thing on Amazon Prime by 5pm. You’re writing a strategy report, it’s your mother’s birthday, your car insurance needs renewing and what the hell’s for dinner anyway? Multitasking is just what we do. We are brilliant at it, amiright? Serial skillers. The best, the alphas, the… what do you mean there’s an elite level? Called the Supertaskers? Isn’t that us? Apparently not.

These chosen ones only make up 2.5% of the population. It’s not just that they can multitask, the more their attention is divided, reports Gizmodo, the better they concentrate. Still not us.

Scientists from the Universities of Tasmania and Utah unearthed these maniacs while running tests on multitasking. Volunteers had to use a driving simulator, keeping a set distance from the car in front while taking a hands free phone call and being pelted with word lists. And maths problems. No one could handle it, even though the scenario feels weirdly familiar, because, whisper it, multitasking is actually impossible. Bar one person, who (weirdly) nailed it, the exception rather than the rule, and the supertasker was born.

So can we become supertaskers? Again no. It’s all to do with how efficiently your brain is wired. When supertaskers were put under MRI scanners their brains actually showed less activity not more. You can practice various tasks and improve your performance on each one but you can’t change the wiring.

If you’re secretly convinced you are one of them, the scientists have created a test for the BBC here. The instructions themselves are a good weeding out process. The test takes 40 minutes. We lasted 2. Almost no one can multitask without doing everything a little bit badly. You are still a rockstar though.

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