Multi-tasking is described by many of our readers and clients as an essential part of their time management strategy. It seems most people are proud of the fact they can multi-task. There is a perception that it makes you more efficient. I often have people say to me 'there is so much going on I have to multi-task or I would not get anything done.'

But what if all this is an illusion - like a clever magic trick.

To the untrained eye a magician appear to be able to make people disappear, saw people in half or simply pull a rabbit out of a hat. The magician uses swift hands, mirrors, distracting activities and creates confusion so you don't see what actually happens. And because you don't see HOW it happens it appears to be magic.

Multi-tasking is like a magic trick. You are being distracted and so you only see a small part of what is going on.

Brain research has identified that we can only have one thought at a time. Yes we can move from one thought to the next very quickly, but we process things one thought at a time. A sequence of thought leads to understanding, comprehension, insight. Switching thought patterns to different tasks can result in lack of understanding and false assumptions.

It even worse! My clients usually don't realise the impact their multi-tasking has on others. It's like you are watching the magic show and the magician is showing everyone how they do the tricks, but you can't see the moves - it still looks like magic to you. Everyone else can she what the magician is doing, but you can't. When you multi-task it has a big affect on others and usually the person multi-tasking can't see it.

Test this for yourself. Try typing an email and talking on the phone at the same time. Then, before you hang up, ask the person you were talking to how they felt about the conversation. Did it flow for them? Did they feel you really heard and understood what they were saying? Did your responses seem clear and in context.?

There is another simple example that leads me to believe we are naturally more effective single tasking. If you are jogging with someone and you ask them a complex question, they will stop or at least slow down significantly. And they don't even realise they are doing it. Seems to me this is the mind saying 'I need to stop this activity (jogging) so I can do this (analyse the problem).' This is an instinctive reaction to single task.

What about driving and talking on a cell phone? It's illegal. Why? Because it is not safe. You cannot drive safely and talk on the phone. Multi-tasking is ineffective. What multi-tasking does do is make you initially feel better. You feel like you are getting more done because you are handling two or more tasks at once. The outcome though is that it actually takes you longer to do both, than to do one at a time OR the results you get are of a much lower standard than if you focused on the tasks one at a time.

So, when should you multi-task.

You can multi-task when the task don't mean much to you. If your effectiveness and the results don't matter, then go right ahead and multi-task. And there are some times when this happens. But not often - if the results really don't matter to you, then why do it at all?

Multi-tasking is poor time management in most cases. Multi-tasking may give you a sense of being efficient, but it is actually like a magic trick where you missing a lot of what is going on.

If a task is important enough to invest your time on it is important enough to dedicate you focus to it.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Erwin is a Time Creation Expert and Time Coach. Michael has lots of free time management resources at his website. Watch free time management videos You can find more time management articles and time management tips at time-management-central.net.