I’m working on my book chapter about multi-tasking. There are studies out there that show multitasking severely degrades performance. From what I can tell, however, they’re talking about trying to do two things at exactly the same time. For example, talking on the phone and typing an email.

The kind of multitasking I find particularly pernicious is having multiple conflicting “top priorities,” which results in my spinning my wheels back and forth over the course of a day and doing less good work on either project. So it’s not at-exactly-the-same-time multitasking, but more like, rapid-switching-between-incompatible-tasks multitasking.

When my friend C— thinks of multitasking, she thinks of teenagers listening to music, IMing, and doing homework. To me, that seems less like multitasking and more like multi-sensory stimulation. Though if the IMing happens during homework problems (as opposed to between them), it could fit the definition of multitasking.

What does multi-tasking mean to you? Is there a difference for you between the do-things-at-same-time versus have-many-things-on-your-plate-and-switch-frenetically-between them?

Please note: by answering, you’re saying it’s fine for me to put your answers in my book chapter. Unless you give me other attribution, in the credits I’ll try to list your Blog login name or your full name if you include it somewhere in your post.

How do you define multitasking?

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