Did you Know that Single-Tasking is the New Multi-tasking?

Multi-tasking is when you do 2 or more things at the same time, for example, talking on the phone while grocery shopping or, perhaps writing a report for work, checking emails, and doing your online banking.

If you have ADHD, there is a chance you are a master at multi-tasking.

3 Reasons Why People Living With ADHD Like to Multi-task

1) You crave excitement; by flitting from one thing to the next quickly, your adrenaline is pumping and life seems more exciting.

2) When you remember something, you act on it right away. You are scared that if you don’t, you will forget about it.

3) You have a low threshold for boredom, so you don’t just talk to a friend on the phone; you are also playing a computer game.

However, humans aren’t designed to do 2 things at the same time, not even people who think they are great at multi-tasking. When you are multi-tasking, rather than doing 2 task at the same time, what is actually happening is the brain shifting from one task to the next very quickly.

Multi-tasking is performed by the executive functions of the brain, and there are 2 steps involved:
1) Goal shifting (choosing one item)
2) Role Activation (switching between the rules of one task to another)

The Downsides to Multi-Tasking

  • Every time you switch tasks, you lose time. Some researchers believe people are 40% less productive when they multi-task.
  • Multi-tasking involves a lot of decision making: Do I answer this email now or later? Do I pick up the phone? What is the best way to write this? ADHDers can find decision making challenging so needing to make all these rapid decisions is stressful and fatiguing.
  • There is an increase in errors.

Now, of course, there are some situations where we don’t get a choice: a mum looking after her children or staff in the ER room need to multi-task to respond to the needs of multiple people and keep everyone safe.

However, many times even when our environment doesn’t require us to multi-task, we still choose to do it.


The opposite of multi-tasking is single-tasking, which as the name suggests you focus on one thing at a time.

In this video James Hamblin, the Heath editor of The Atlantic , talks about multi-tasking verses single-tasking. He describes what happens to him when he is on his computer and how he jumps from subject to the next, leaving a trail of open tabs behind him.

As you watch it, you will probably recognize yourself just a little bit.

I don’t know if James has ADHD, but he is reading the ADHD book ‘Fast Minds: How to thrive if you have ADHD’ in the shower.

How you behave on your computer is often a reflection of how you operate in the rest of your life too. If you have lots of tabs (or pages) open on your computer, there is a good chance you have lots of unfinished tasks at home and work too. You start one thing and jump to the next and then the next.  Here is another video about what that feels like.

If either of these scenarios describe you, don’t feel bad! Recognizing where you are now is the first step to making changes.

James suggests starting a new habit. One day a week only have 1 tab open at a time on your computer. The day even has a name, TabLess Thursday.

He explains when you are committed to single-tasking, it forces you to make value judgements.

Do I want to finish what I am doing?

Or do I want to move on to something else?

When you start this habit on your computer, it helps develop your ability to do it in the rest of your life too.

Here is the video. It is fun and enlightening viewing.

These are my favorite parts:

29 seconds: A description about how difficult it is to be fully present on the internet, and how easy it is to jump from one thing to the next.

2.17: Description of Tabless Thursday in which you commit to having only one tab open at once.

Are you inspired now to try single-tasking? Leave a message in the comment section below!


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