Multitaskers Are Liars, Or Your Brain Is A Processor, Not A Memory Card.

multitaskers are liars multitasking life lessons from video games leaders

Multitaskers Are Liars. All of them. Sorry, it is just not possible. If you say you can multitask, you are lying. I don’t care what you say, it is impossible to dedicate 100% of your attention to more than one thing at a time. I’ve entered into some crazy debates with sincere people (or is that sincere debates with crazy people?) who whole heartedly believe that you can multitask in the fullest sense of the word.

In my previous writing about Tetris Time Management, I explained how the mind does its best work when it is focused on one single task. If we tried multitasking in video games the way we try to multitask in real life, the foolishness would be quickly apparent. Imaging playing four simultaneous games of Tetris, with four controllers, on four screens…life lesson from video games quote multitasking classicallytrained allegamy

Madness? This is MULTITASKING!

Overcoming the mental noise that attempting to be a multitasker creates is at the heart of personal productivity master David Allen’s very excellent work Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. In this book, David Allen talks about how each of us have a brain that functions like a computer in a way – we have limited “Psychic RAM” that is, the mind can only hold so many things in its attention span at one time.

For this reason, we need to reconsider how we are using our mind. Our mind is more like the processor in a gaming console or computer, but its effectiveness is greatly hampered when we try to use it like a memory card or hard drive. During an interview with him, David Allen explained that “our minds are for having ideas, not holding them.”

Consider how overwhelmed you may feel sometimes. Think about every video game you want to play, every book you want to read and every movie you want to watch. Now think about everything you need to buy from the grocery store. Do you have any incomplete projects around the house? What about school work? All these thoughts take up mental energy. No wonder many of us feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to even start.

Worse yet, when we get a moment of free time, its all too easy to waste it on something silly that we had no intention of even doing, like watching the TV, surfing the internet, or playing some crack-like addicting smart phone game.

So how do you fix this? Well, writer Jeff Goins offered up a solution as part of his Slow Down Challenge:

  1. Pick one task you need to accomplish; write it down.
  2. List all distractions that stand in your way.
  3. Share the list with one person who can hold you accountable.
  4. As you work, glance at your list and remind yourself what really matters.
  5. Turn off your phone and/or silence other pieces of technology, while you do this task.
  6. See how much better your can concentrate when you focus.

Pretty cool, right?

What are you dealing with today that could benefit from this assignment? I’d love to hear about it so that I can cheer you on!

  • Dude, I love how you compared multitasking to multiple games of Tetris at one time. That would be insane.

    • So crazy, indeed. Yet we somehow try to live our work and lives that same way – no wonder so many feel ineffective.

  • Pablo Robles

    Nice article.

    • Thank you for reading! I try to write about things that I struggle with myself. Anything in particular stand out to you?

      • Pablo Robles

        I have a very limited RAM, so I’ve been working with “To do lists” for a time now, but I really need to focus 100% on only one task; so no phone, no Twitter, no Tv and even no music that I really like, cause I could find myself singing one song in my mind and can not continue with the current task till the song is over.
        So I guess I’m helpless.

        • I know what you mean about the song getting stuck in your head. I’ve found that if a play an instrumental playlist of music that I am not very familiar with, it really can help my concentration. There is a great free app I use called “Focus@will” – maybe that can help you?

          • Pablo Robles

            Thanks. I’ll check it out.

  • Multitasker

    Yeah multitaskers don’t live in the west. Ever been to China? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ1gpqr0kkA

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