Idiots do Multitasking, Geniuses Single-task.


“Multi-tasking”. Say it…say it. What the hell does it mean? Seriously, take time, now, to just ponder the meaning of that word. “Multi-tasking”, what does it mean and imply?

Seriously, I don’t do multi-tasking because it’s for idiots. The smart people in the world single-task and that’s really the natural order of things. Human beings were never made to multi-task. Multi-tasking in the office was a cheap way to cut down on employing more people and to enforce a form of slavery in the modern office. Yup, slavery is not confine to third-world countries, you can find it in modern air-conditioned offices. And the slaves are those of us who ever got slap with the “you-can-multi-task” stick on note.

Single-tasking is the way we were meant to be. Because we are single-track-minded beings. Our linear minds are most efficient handling a SINGLE train of thought instead of jumping from track to track. It’s just the way we are hardwired in the nugging.

Leave the multi-tasking to computers and machines, why? Because that’s why we invented them. Computers have multi-threaded capabilities embedded into their CPUs. They are built to handle several data streams at one instance. Multi-tasking was meant for the computers. How on earth, did this virus jump from the computer to human species is beyond me. But I bet it was some idiotic HR manager who wanted to save on paying for an extra employee.

So next time someone pushes the “You can multi-task” line into your face, do the smart thing. Reply back, “I’m single track minded, so I work best on a single-tasking model.”


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5 Responses to Idiots do Multitasking, Geniuses Single-task.

  1. Mayukh says:

    Agree with you, but one doubt. Do we really multi-task? If we are told to, we actually break that multi-task into a chain of single tasks and perform them serially. Thats where we outsmart the machines, but heck we cant outsmart nature – so we always “uni-task” as nature made us to do. 🙂

    • Maclean Patrick says:

      Yes, is it really multitasking? Or are we merely masking an event under the guise of a bigger sounding word and justifying the need to hire new employees who may excel in what they do best.

  2. To take another view: It is OK to multi-task with easy things or when one does not need to be competitive; however, when the tasks are hard or one tries to excel then single-tasking is a near requirement.

    A further criteria is the intensity of attention a task requires: For example, what many women mean when they talk about their multi-tasking capabilities is simultaneously having the washing machine and the stove on, having a child play in the next room, and talking on the telephone—three things that basically requires a brief check-in every now-and-then, and a forth which may or may not require more (depending on whether gossip or quantum physics is the topic). In this case, multi-tasking is highly beneficial, because things get done—however, it is only possible due to the low attention needed for each individual task.

    Interestingly, if we look at the tasks done by the typical engineer and the typical manager or HR person, it is not unlikely that they will have very different opinions of multi-tasking, based on their own experiences. Unfortunately, the choice of which engineers to hire is often made or heavily influenced by a manager or a HR person…

    • Maclean Patrick says:

      You’ve pointed out a key point here: the intensity of attention. We DON’T multi-task in the true sense of the word but rather it’s a prioritizing of single-task events based on how much attention they can afford to give. It looks like everything is done at once yet it merely falls into a heavy-task-on-top process.

  3. Since you seem very interested in the question of whether we multi-task:

    What we humans do can (to some approximation) be divided into “conscious effort” and “unconscious activities” (the terminology is poorly chosen, but bear with me):

    If we look at conscious effort, e.g. solving a differential equation or determining whether a certain dish has the right amount of salt, we do not multi-task, but have the kind of “attention switching” that you describe.

    However, if we look at unconscious activities, e.g. scratching a nose while solving the differential equation or listening for a screaming child while tasting the dish, there is a considerable amount of multi-processing going on. Just take a walk through the city and pay attention to all that your body and brain does.

    As a complication, it is possible for an activity that becomes ingrained enough to move from single- to multi-tasking. Consider e.g. a beginner driving a car vs. someone with 200 hours behind the wheel driving and simultaneously discussing the events of the day.

    To some approximation, a human could be considered a one-processor system with some ancillary chips handling routine and administrative tasks in parallel.

    Looking at computers, you are partially right in that most modern PCs with multi-cores CPUs, and even older high-end computers with multiple CPUs, are capable off “true” multi-tasking. However, not that long ago the typical PC had exactly the kind of simulated multi-tasking by attention switching that we see in humans. The same applies to many really low-end computers (e.g. cell phones and PDAs) of today. Going back even further, computers did not even have the ability to simulate multi-processing, but did exactly one task at a time, form start to end and without interuption.

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