Think You’re Good at Multitasking? Think Again.

Libby Kane
Posted

the problem with multitaskingWe all like to think we’re great multitaskers.

After all, it’s a talent: We’re getting emails answered, phone calls made, chores completed and meals cooked (or obtained, whatever).

And we’re doing it all on a timeframe that suits our busy lives–because no matter how much time we actually have, we certainly feel busy.

But according to new research, we probably aren’t as talented as we thought we were. The Huffington Post reports that a study published in journal PLOS One evaluated the multitasking of 310 college students, and found that the people who scored highest on multitasking tests were the least likely to actually multitask … and vice versa.

“The people who multitask the most tend to be impulsive, sensation-seeking, overconfident of their multitasking abilities, and they tend to be less capable of multitasking,” study researcher David Strayer told Science Daily.

Co-author David M. Sanbonmatsu adds: “Our data show people multitask because they have difficulty focusing on one task at a time.”

While their findings do have a meaningful takeaway for our lives and our time management (that’s “concentrate on one task at a time, because you aren’t as good at multitasking as you think you are,” in case you weren’t following), the study’s results also pertain to something more consequential: talking on the phone and driving.

Federal estimates place 10% of drivers talking on the phone at any given time–which is illegal in many states–and 13% of study participants reported doing the same. Ironically, the people most likely to talk and drive are also the people least suited to do it effectively: The study found a correlation between impulsivity and using a phone while driving.

So the next time you find yourself taking on multiple tasks–especially if one of them is operating a moving vehicle–take a second to remember that you’d be far more effective tackling one at a time.