Update #2: October 9, 2014 – More research!!! Published in Forbes Magazine here.

Update #1: October 6, 2014 – New research now verifies that multitasking shrinks the brain, literally. Studies in the UK, at The University of California, and others have documented through MRI’s that multi-tasking is now considered harmful to the grey matter. “University of Sussex researchers said: ‘Simultaneously using mobile phones, laptops and other media devices could be changing the structure of our brains.’ … the part of the brain that shrinks is involved in processing emotion.” (The Daily Mail, September 25, 2014).

Multi-Tasking – Part of a Modern Day Dichotomy

We were reading newspapers from around the country and glanced through the want ads. Most professional positions required the future executive to be skilled in both effective communication and multi-tasking. The question is, how can a person skilled in multi-tasking be an effective communicator? The answer is, he can’t.

In truth, multi-tasking is a biologically un-sound assumption and contrary to effective cognitive function. Yet, if we ask anyone in the workplace about his or her ability to multi-task, most will proudly affirm this skill and present the good news as a badge of honor.

Just take a look at Jake here. He can talk on the phone with a client, update his daily planner, reply to his email, play solitaire, drink coffee, and balance six paperclips on the end of his pencil all at the same time. But why would anyone be proud of that?

Jake’s client is being heard but Jake is not listening to what is being said. Jake’s daily planner is orderly but he has not invested thought in how or why the new tasks should be accomplished. Jake’s email may be free of spam, but what about the reply he sent to his sister? Doesn’t she deserve his full attention? And as for the coffee and the paperclip sculpture, does Jake really believe that we all want him to slurp and dawdle in our midst?

Aside from a blatant disrespect for one’s fellow man, and aside from ignoring lost opportunities for true interactive communication, multi-tasking is contrary to basic cognitive function. Neural stimuli, competing in such an environment, prevent the brain’s synapses from strengthening. Hence, cognitive resources are simply wasted. Multi-tasking is not a badge of honor. It is a thief of neural nutrition, a symptom of interpersonal dysfunction, and evidence of a poor work ethic. And that is not something to be proud of.

  • Let us reclaim the courtesy and good manners that once marked us as a civilized society.
  • Let us give our fellow man the attention that once permeated our workplace.
  • Let us protect the chemical resources that fuel neural activity.
  • And let us devote to quality the tasks set before us, keeping our thoughts unhindered and our concentration focused on excellence.

… and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun,
whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9: Verses 9-10

– End –


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