Confessions of a Master Multi-Tasker

I’ve always been the consummate multi-tasker. In my school years, I watched TV or listened to music while I did my homework and talked on the phone with friends. Now, I speak with work colleagues or conduct conference calls while I write emails or finalize project details.

My husband, a writer who requires absolute mono-focus, marvels at the way my brain works. But I’ve begun to wonder whether the ability to multi-task is a false talent. After all, my husband seems to have more free time than I do, and he’s certainly more relaxed.

I’ve begun to realize that multi-tasking means I always feel rushed and my day is stressful. I find myself concerned that I’ve missed important details. I’m constantly checking and re-checking my work to fix errors that occur because I’m doing several things at once rather than focusing on the task at hand.

Ultimately, I’m getting things done and completing work, but am I delivering my best work? And is this the best way to get my work accomplished? I’m not sure. I think I may be a victim of my past multi-tasking successes. Are you?

Cynthia Leverich is Director of Global Business Development for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Cohen Brown Management Group is the internally recognized leader in sales-and-service cultural and behavioral change, specializing in consulting and training processes for management, front-line, support/customer service units and call centers. Performance Grapevine provides thought leadership insights on sales training, sales management, leadership training, time management, consultative selling, behavior change, organization change, and culture change.


  1. PBS has a great documentary posted on the web called Digital Nation. In that documentary they demonstrated that someone who is texting and driving is more impaired than the minimum standard for drunk driving. So the next time you see someone texting in a meeting, you know that they have become temporarily incapacitated.

    In another segment a professor at MIT articulated that today’s students are so distracted in the classroom with multi-tasking that they score 79 out of 100 on a test that covered material presented in the classroom. He compared that to students 5-10 years ago taking the same test and they would score in the high 90s. His conclusion is that these students aren’t any less intelligent than the prior students…they are distracted and not absorbing the material.

    Multi-tasking is a falsity. The human brain’s cognitive process can only focus on one thing at a time. Thus multi-tasking is simply moving from one thing to the other quickly — which often leads to errors and lack of understanding.

    Focus is the key to getting work done well. It also reduces the level of stress and helps to remove the frantic feeling created by pushing the brain to move to one topic to another continuously.

  2. Thanks Jeff. I’ll definitely take a look at the PBS documentary. Clearly, it supports what I have come to believe – that thinking the ability to multi-task is an asset or a talent is a fallacy.

  3. elsa pahnke 10 years ago

    Harvard Medical School also did research in to how the brain works that supports Jeff’s comments. We debunk the multi tasking myth at every opportunity and also stress the importance of being present in the moment.

    Additional research has shown that just by having a mobile on the table during a face to face conversation impairs the communication as the non-mobile ‘packer’ feels devalued.

    So give your customers, collegues, family and friends your most precious asset – your complete attention.

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