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Do you find yourself working on many things at one time, but rarely feeling as if you’ve accomplished a single task? Do you squeeze too much into a short time frame because you think you have to do it all right now?

If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you join the rest of us who dub ourselves “multitaskers.” There’s a problem with this, however. According to research, multitasking is actually a delusion of the brain – the brain can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

In a 2008 National Public Radio article, “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again”, Jon Hamilton reports that even as technology appears to allow people to do more tasks at the same time, the myth that we can multitask is stronger than ever.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“‘People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,’ said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, ‘The brain is very good at deluding itself.’

Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

What we can do, he said, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.

‘Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,’ Miller said. ‘You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.'”

I would agree. A counselor friend of mine reminds me that multitasking doesn’t work and encourages me to try slowing down my mind in an effort to complete all of the items on my To Do list. As a full-time reporter, a graduate student, a graduate assistant, an intern, a client and more, I rarely have a blank square in my planner. Every day is demanding and every day I am accomplishing more. It wasn’t always this way.

I used to start an assignment then get distracted by something else I needed or wanted to do. Before I knew it, I would be three rooms from where I started and hours closer to my deadline. I couldn’t rest. I was bouncing endlessly from one thing to another, diagnosing myself as ADHD, and worrying that I would never truly accomplish anything in my life. With or without ADHD, however, I took heed of my therapist’s advice recently and have been trying hard to focus only on one task at a time.

I can almost promise you that even when much needs done, tackling one thing – one thing only- in the moment will help you get more accomplished and limit forgetfulness or senseless mistakes.

This is my challenge to all of you multitaskers out there. Take today and try doing just one thing at a time…

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