• As seen in:

Think You’re Good at Multitasking? Take this Test.

Think you’re a good multitasker? Know someone who thinks they are? Here’s your chance to put your skills to this test! In this video, I walk you through the multitasking exercise I share in my live keynote speeches and workshops.

Action Steps:

  1. Download the Multitasking Exercise example file here. http://DaveCrenshaw.com/multitasking-exercise.pdf
  2. In the first row, recopy the phrase Multitasking is worse than a lie. (Remember: Don’t start until Dave says “go!”)
  3. In the second row, write down the numbers 1 through 27; one number for every letter in the phrase
  4. Write down your finish time off to the side.
  5. Do the exercise again but this time, for every letter that you write in the third row, you’re going to write a number in the fourth row.
  6. Write down your finish time off to the side.

Principles to Learn:

  1. When you think you are multitasking, what you’re really doing is “switchtasking”—switching back and forth rapidly between two or more tasks.
  2. There are 3 consequences of multitasking:
    1. Tasks takes longer
    2. Mistakes increase
    3. Stress levels increase

Top rated speaker, long lasting results. Hire Dave to Speak.

  • http://www.tracyleejones.com Tracy Lee Jones

    Love it!! This was one of the most eye opening time management exercises I’ve ever done- and it’s so quick and to the point!! Thanks Dave!

    • http://www.InvaluableInc.com Dave Crenshaw

      Thanks, Tracy. Thank you for the work you do to help people live a healthy lifestyle.

  • Rick Pearce

    Multitasking is worse than a lie because it’s such a convincing illusion! Thanks for busting the myth!

    • http://www.InvaluableInc.com Dave Crenshaw

      You’re welcome, Rick. Keep spreading the word!

  • http://www.InvaluableInc.com Dave Crenshaw

    The irony of this post… Although my team and I had worked for weeks on preparing it, I had to prep the final email to go out to all of you in between shoots on the set. The result of my switchtasking was that I didn’t follow company systems, and the email it went out with a nice big typo.

    • Dean

      Great video. So how do I break the habit of it. One way I am working on doing that is think of the word “typewriter”. With a typewriter you only can type and focus on 1 page at a time until your done Oh, the simple days.

      • http://www.InvaluableInc.com Dave Crenshaw

        That’s an interesting idea, Dean. I think how the word association helps you think about one thing at a time.

        Really everything in my Get Time Boot Camp focuses on helping people stop switchtasking. It’s a matter of reconditioning your brain to stop wanting to make the switches. Almost everyone has systemic inefficiencies built into their day that cause them to switchtask, which tells the brain, “keep trying to do this.” By removing those inefficiencies, your tendency to switchtask will continue to drop over time.

        In my case, my switchtasking (and subsequent UGLY typo) was caused this week because I overscheduled myself…something I haven’t done for a long time. it was unrealistic of me to think I could prep the email for release in between filming sessions.

        When you pack too much in your schedule, you put yourself in a position where you’ll attempt to multitask and thereby make more mistakes, slow yourself down, and increase stress levels. All three of those happened to me yesterday. :-)

        • Mai_nomore

          good thinker makes solve problem

        • Marilyn

          The thing that has helped me the most is to write down up to 5 things I want to accomplish for the day. tasksmash.com has helped me with this, because it gives me a big gold star if I finish them all! I can always add more tasks to the daily list, but 5 is a good number to start with. Also setting a timer for 15 minutes helps me really stay focused, especially if it is a kitchen timer that ticks loudly. Last year I was putting smiley faces on my calendar when I finished my tasks. Rewards are great, even if given by yourself! Thanks, Dave, for these great ideas. I was introduced to your Invaluable book by one of my professors last semester, and I then went on to get the MultiTasking book.

          • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

            Thanks for the site suggestion Marilyn.

  • M Maclay

    Brilliant! This simple exercise could not have been better.

  • Dustin Smith

    I saved the video using RealPlayer Downloader and, ironically, the little ad that popped up at the bottom the window had the pitch, “Want to watch videos like this in your car?” ROTFL!

  • Francesco Marchionne

    I have done the exercise. thank you to clarify my mind on the damages of multitasking which I was convinced to be the best solution to do my job, but you are right on the consequences and I am gonna change my way in single tasking by tasking.

  • Lee

    Wow, almost exactly twice the time for the same output! Now to show this to my teenagers and get them off Facebook, txt, homework and games!

    • http://www.InvaluableInc.com Dave Crenshaw

      Thanks, Lee. When you talk to teenagers about it, be sure to put it in terms of their self-interest. For example: when they multitask, they miss out on having more time to play with friends, they have to repeat work and so on.

  • http://twitter.com/pivotpointdk Daniel Nielsen

    Heard, couldn’t be more true, but try and explain that to my boss :-(

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Thanks for coming to my blog, Daniel.

      I’ve heard that story so many times, unfortunately. “My boss doesn’t get it! They want to keep multitasking.” Whenever I hear that, here and my suggestions (in order of impact):

      1) If you have an upcoming company or association event where you need a speaker, suggest me. If I can speak to the group as a whole, this creates a unified approach to stop multitasking. http://www.invaluableinc.com/event

      2) As a gift, give your boss a copy of the Myth of Multitasking. http://tinyurl.com/mythofmultitasking There are also editions in eBook, audio, Russian, German, Dutch, Italian and Korean.

      3) For a company training, print out the exercise from this page and either show this video in the meeting or do it on your own.

      I’ve seen MANY CEOs and Owners change when I help them see what multitasking is costing them and their company.

  • http://www.comfortablestructure.com Virginia

    I love this test!! I share it with all my clients and anyone else who will take the test :)

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Great, Virginia! It’s a perfect match for your organization business. I’ve found time and organization go hand-in-hand.

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  • http://www.HomeFreeHypnosis.com Aino Welch

    Wow you aren’t kidding the stress level goes up specially as you keep calling out the numbers and we passed the number from the first test… yes and love the pop-up Dustin, you must have been multitasking big time to notice that and take a picture….?

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Welcome to the site, Aino!

      It’s even worse when we do it with truly meaningful activities, such as work or interacting with people. People have just been dealing with it so long they’re not even aware that the source of much of the stress they feel is because of their fractured attention.

  • Shankar Ooty

    Short. Neat. And BANG on target! I am sharing this with all my friends. Thanks Dave!

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Thanks, Shankar. Please let me know how it goes with your friends. :-)

  • Mickey

    Excellent example – I knew my time would increase in task 2 but had no idea it would flat double. 30secs first / 60 seconds second. And it ‘hurt’ my brain more. Required more mental horsepower to wrangle my focus back to next micro-task. The (my) workplace enviroment is being totally self-consumed by the now, now, now ~me, me, me addiction of instant response// multitasking// or whatever other chaos that makes for an exhausting 12-14 hr day with 3 hrs (maybe) worth of actual productivity. The digital age brings new challenges on throttling back the speed of chaos in order to to go faster in the right direction. I think there is potentially a hugh market and need for your work ~ and it should as well, be focused or directed to employers/bosses/managers to encourage an enviroment of first things first, ‘just-say-no’, one at a time in a logical order etc. I especially, do not respond well to OTHER peoples’ crisis when they are in MULTI-task mode. Thanks for video

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Thank you for your great insights, Mickey. If you haven’t seen it yet, please watch the “fourth effect” video, which resonates with your last thought about other people multitasking on you: http://davecrenshaw.com/multitasking-effects-on-relationships/

      • Llupo97246

        Unfortunately, too many companies list “Must be able to multitask in a dynamic environment” as one of their job requirements!  I was recently fired because I could not keep up with the multi-tasking that was required!

        • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

          This is why I dislike the word multitasking to begin with. It’s an inaccurate description of what’s going on and means many different things to many different people.

          Typically when a company requires “multitasking,” what they really mean is that someone has the ability to juggle multiple parallel projects–which is a good skill to develop.

          However, if they mean by “multitasking” that you need to put up with constant chaos and distractions in the workplace, that is just an excuse for poor management and chronic disorganization. And it should never be blamed on employees.

          P.S. I’m sorry to hear about your recent job loss. :-(

  • Savant

    multitasking is great if you have a waiting time between task1. Didn’t you consider that?

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Absolutely. That’s why I distinguish between “switchtasking” and “background tasking” in my book. A lot of the problem with multitasking as a concept is that the word itself is flawed.

      “Switchtasking” – attempting to do multiple attention requiring tasks at the same time.
      “Background tasking” – performing a task while something mindless or mundane occurs in the background.

      Doing something else in the waiting time between tasks isn’t multitasking in the traditional sense–it’s really background tasking. When most people refer to multitasking, they’re talking about attempting to do multiple things at the same time, which is always inefficient and ineffective.

  • http://www.moretimeforyou.net Lkrolik

    Great exercise. It really gets the point across and I look forward to sharing it with my clients and workshop attendees.

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Really glad to hear it. Looks like you have a great service you’re providing. Please share my book with your clients.http://tinyurl.com/mythofmultitasking Thanks!

      • Artezuela

        Hi Sir… I would like to ask your permission that I would like to use this Exercise in my research… and you will be acknowledged sir… thank you and Godbless

  • Amna_khlaid


  • Artezuela

    hi sir… I would just like to ask permission if its ok with you that I will use this exercise as a research tool. You will be acknowledged in my research study sir. thank you sir and Godbless

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Hi Artezuela (and others with similar questions)
      If you’re going to use this exercise in a printed publication, please use the contact form and submit your request: http://davecrenshaw.com/contact-me
      Because this exercise was part of my book published by Jossey-Bass, requests for reuse in publications need to go through their approval process. Thanks!

  • harvin

    great exercise, tried with my students. was fun

  • Bhuvismiley

    Dave its so strange for me. i completed first tasks at 30 secs and second task at 33 secs. pls explain how z same.

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      The times may be similar (albeit still slower–that is a 10% increase!), but your mistakes and stress levels would be worse the second time.

      Also, I have seen rare occasions for people who speak English as a second language get similar scores or even better the second time. Why? Because this is an unfamiliar task to them both times, and they have to slow down for both.

      In the case of non-native English speakers, a better test would be to write the numbers1-27 on the first row and then 28-54. on the second. The second time, alternate numbers, so 1->28, 2->29 and so on. The results will be more typical.

  • Robin

    yeah u r rite but ther r sm prsns in woeld they do multi tasking very well

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw


  • Anonymous

    Great test. I’m going to use this example to anyone who tells me they think they can multitask! 

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Please do. It’s really the fastest way to open people’s eyes. Thanks!

  • Zule

    I agree with the term switch tasking, since our brain does not permit us to process the multiple inputs simultaneously. It is possible to switch task effectively when performing several sequential project tasks at an interval whist switching to other tasks during wait times. Like when washing clothes and ironing clothes. One can switch between the two tasks while the washer and dryers run through their cycles. Yes it takes longer to do the ironing overall, but the wait time is used instead of watching machines run. At work I often have projects that I work several tasks; between those tasks, I must wait for someone else to complete their parts. Stopping a solo task to work a project task and return it to a wait state makes sense to me. Yes I do need to refocus on my solo task and watch both for error.

    Driving a car, as you note, does not really have wait cycles where you do not have to pay attention to traffic so you are free to safely switch tasks.

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Hi Zule, yes I agree with you. Here is my response to “Savant”:

      Absolutely. That’s why I distinguish between “switchtasking” and “background tasking” in my book. A lot of the problem with multitasking as a concept is that the word itself is flawed.

      “Switchtasking” – attempting to do multiple attention requiring tasks at the same time.
      “Background tasking” – performing a task while something mindless or mundane occurs in the background.

      Doing something else in the waiting time between tasks isn’t multitasking in the traditional sense–it’s really background tasking. When most people refer to multitasking, they’re talking about attempting to do multiple things at the same time, which is always inefficient and ineffective.

  • newsletter@azielinski.info

    27 (single tasking) vs 30 seconds (multi tasking) for me – mostly cause I’ve had to move hand more over the paper instead of writing character by character next to each other. not that bad I guess :p

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Not bad. Now remember that there are three more consequences of multitasking other than time increase: quality of work, stress levels, and damaged relationships. (See: http://davecrenshaw.com/multitasking-effects-on-relationships/ ) ;-)

  • Luna

    I did this test at school with a friends… The first time I had exactly the same time but the second time there was a different of 10 seconds… 

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Thanks for sharing Luna. Sometimes people are faster at making switches than others. Just remember that time is only one of the consequences. It also increases mistakes, increases stress and damages relationships. See also: http://davecrenshaw.com/multitasking-effects-on-relationships/

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  • Linnie820

    Wow Dave, thank you! I had a boss who got on my butt telling me how I should be Multitasking and that since I’ am female that it should come naturaly to me. this makes me feel better. That lady was truly miserable.

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      If anyone finds themselves in a corporate culture like this, I recommend giving your boss the gift of my book, The Myth of Multitasking:  http://tinyurl.com/mythofmultitasking 

      It was written with the purpose of converting the unconverted. :-)

  • Shawnut

    My understanding is that multitasking is task dependent.  Tasks can be either cognitive (one at a time) or associative (two or more at a time).    Walking down a sidewalk, for example, is generally an associative task, and could be combined with another associative task, such as listening to music, or talking with a friend who is walking with you.  The problem is that tasks can change from associative to cognitive.  For example, if that same sidewalk becomes icy and slick, the first thing a reasonable person does is to turn off the music or quit talking and focus on not falling.  I can easily fold clothes while talking to someone on a hands-free phone.  That kind of multitasking is ok.  What a person can’t do is to type an unrelated e-mail while also carrying on a phone conversation.  They also can’t drive and talk on the phone unless the drive is associative (steady speed, no traffic, no driving decisions required).  Cell phone use in cars by drivers should only be for emergencies, or when they’re in the middle of nowhere.

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Astutely put, Shawnut. I agree with you, but rather than taking an academic approach, I come at the issue with the intent to help people change behavior.
      I distinguish between “switchtasking” and “background tasking” in my book. A lot of the problem with multitasking as a concept is that the word itself is flawed. I redefine the word in two ways:
      “Switchtasking” = attempting to do multiple attention-requiring tasks at the same time.”Background tasking” = performing a task while something mindless or mundane occurs in the background.
      Doing something else in the waiting time between tasks, or when you have an automatic behavior, isn’t multitasking in the traditional sense–it’s really background tasking. 
      The problem is, when most people refer to multitasking, they’re talking about attempting to do multiple things at the same time, which is always inefficient and ineffective.

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  • Steven Parinussa

    Thank you very much, Dave!

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      You’re welcome, Steven.

  • Oak

    Dave, what do you think of people who multitask so that the background
    activity is what they say they can concentrate on better? For example,
    some of my family members like to work on a puzzle or draw while
    listening to General Conference which tends to make me think they’re not
    getting everything out of conference that they could if they were just
    attentively listening. Do I need to lighten up or is this switchtasking?

    • http://www.DaveCrenshaw.com Dave Crenshaw

      Hi, Oak
      During the presentation you attended live, I emphasized that I don’t tell people what to do, but instead teach principles and some suggested systems and then let you decide how to apply them.In the case of your family, I would do the same. Do the exercise on this page. Teach them the myth of multitasking. Teach them how to identify switchtasking vs background tasking, in particular the four consequences of switchtasking. Then let them decide for themselves. :-)Thanks for the question!

  • Pamela13parker

    MASTERFUL demonstration.  

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      Thank you!

  • Catherine

    I’d like to point out that my times were a lot closer together once I realised that it took time to move my entire wrist down to the second line to write a number. So I wrote all the letters but wrote them on different lines to compensate for the time difference and surprisingly, that closed the gap quite a bit. Still, I see what you’re trying to say…I just think it’s not so simple.

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      You can improve your time through practicing, through making changes to the system and so on. What never will change, though, are the three consequences. All you can do is reduce their effects.

      The real real message is: you’re doing this all day long in many different ways, ways in which you can’t improve or make changes. Whenever you switchtask, you 1) take longer 2) make more mistakes and 3) increase your stress levels.

      You’ll always be faster, better, and more calm when you do one thing at a time.

      Also, be sure to check out the fourth effect here:


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  • Natily

    if were 2 test what gender is better at multitasking, what would i say, and how would i test it?

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      You’d need a large enough statistical sample of both men and women, both taking this test.

      I’n my experience, you’d find that women have less switching cost than men, but both experience switching cost. Regardless of gender or age, it’s always better to focus on one task at a time.

  • OMG

    dave crenshaw is full of shit

  • OMG

    this test is bullshit. switching back and forth from different tasks? No. not even close. you are just breaking up the pattern that we all have memorized which in return causes a delay in the thought process. its like if u ask us to spell our name, we say the letters so fast bc we’ve done it so many times before, but when u ask us to spell sum1 else name we say it slower, letter by letter, bc we are thinking about it, bc it’s not something we do frequently. When our names, as well as numbers, and letters are so deeply programmed in our subconscious that we can say them or write them down without even thinking about it. like it’s second nature. in this test it’s like you are asking us to write down the alphabet backwards. of course we can rattle off numbers one after another, and write down words incredibly fast bc we have spelled them a thousand times before. so when you ask us to write out a phrase letter by letter, only pausing after each one to count, of course it will take longer bc nobody writes down a word and after each letter, stops to do something else. Obviously it’s going to take longer! God u would never get ANY work done! this has nothing to do with multitasking at all. its just a lie to sell books full of more lies. u want multitasking? go out in the real world and get a real job. have kids and a family and pets and a home and sports games and lessons and practices and events and cleaning and groceries and bills and a career with hundreds of customers, phones ringing off the hook, scheduling, payments, and anything else that goes along with managing a business. And a hundred other things on ur plate, that need to be taken care of RIGHT that minute, and do it all with ease. then u can go and teach people about what multitasking is Dave. ;)

  • OMG

    multitasking is a GREAT thing. we would be absolutely nowhere without it. and only the great people in this world know how to handle everything all at once and stay calm. the real problem is people are just too damn lazy these days. get off ur asses at ur jobs and start working! stop sitting around and doing the bare minimum!! get up, help out, help others, do stuff without being told, if u see sumthin thats not ur job, but u can take TWO seconds to pick up sumthing or clean sumthing, then do it! put in the extra effort instead of sitting around saying “oh poor me, i got let go…” it might actually frickin pay off. u’ll be happier, probably get raises, and job security, if u try to be the best u can be. if u cant multitask, then quit and find a job where u dont have to. that simple. jeez i should be the motivational speaker here. maybe write a few books contradicting everything dave crenshaw says. nice to know ppl can still make a fortune off of selling ppl lies. haha thats the american way! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/babyluxtrini Anyika John

    really interesting indeed! thanks for that lesson……….I actually did remain within the time but my first attempt looks way neater and more organized than the 2nd time around………great perspective. like this.

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      You’re welcome, Anyika.

  • Joe

    great revelation Dave. spot on with the exercise. Kudos. Now i better rethink multitasking and switch it to one of the negative compartments of the mind
    To think i was trying to get an excercise to multitask better!

  • Bev

    Interesting exercise. My time doubled. Is this roughlý the samenfor everyone?

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      That’s on the high side of switching cost, but not unusual. The time can increase for people anywhere from 10% to 100%. Thanks. Bev.

  • Philip

    Sorry Dave but when I multasked I actually did better. I got exacly 27 numbers, my time was the same though, my last numbers I got 25, and I din’t have any stress what so ever. But I do have ADD do you think that had anything t do that?

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      So, Philip, what you’re saying is you’re fast and relaxed while you screw things up? Interesting. ;-)

      P.S. You’re talking to someone who was diagnosed as “freaking off the charts ADHD.” Your age, gender, or genetic disposition won’t change the math involved.

  • Lauryn Deshotel

    I first had 31 seconds but on the redo I had a minute and five seconds. Geeze!

  • Single Tasker

    Thanks, Dave. I knew from personal experience that multitasking decreases my speed, increases the number of mistakes I make, and the time needed to correct them, and increases my stress. It makes sense it would do so. However, I have never been able to get anyone to admit that. Most like to tell me that multitasking is a learned skill, and once learned, it increases productivity. While I’m no genius, I am a college graduate. It seems to me if multitasking were a learned skill, I would have learned it by now. I’m 66 years old and spent 45 years in the workforce. The last two years I’ve been a caregiver. If need is the mother of invention, the need to be able to multitask in this situation would have invented a way for me to learn how; it has not. In all that time, I am always more productive when single-tasking. Thanks for bringing the truth to light in an acceptable way.

  • Donna

    I shared this exercise in my Time Management Workshop and got a huge reaction from people. It made sense to them after seeing (and feeling) the results of the second part of the exercise.

    The big question was, “How do you get corporate america to stop insisting that their employees multitask throughout their day?”

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      Hi Donna. The answer will sounds self-serving, but it’s the best one I know:

      1) As a gift, buy your manager (or your employees) a copy of The Myth of Multitasking: http://amzn.to/1d5hVxa Why? This book was written with one purpose in mind: convincing the unconvinced.

      2) If you’re not able to make that small investment, then send them the link to this video. Share this video on all your social networks. Ask your friends to share it with everyone. I’ve found this one simple exercise very effective in changing mindsets.

      Thank you for your support!

  • Greg Enos

    Would an entertainer who is singing and playing an instrument at the same time multitasking ?

  • Greg Enos

    Would a person who is singing and playing a musical instrument at the same time be deemed to be multitasking ? Are active interpreters for the deaf multitasking or switchtasking ?

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      Hi Greg

      First, it will be helpful if you are very clear on my definition between switchtasking and background tasking. See my responses above that cover this, or this summary article: http://davecrenshaw.com/switchtasking-versus-multitasking-what-is-the-difference-2/

      I prefer to not use the word multitasking because it is just plain inaccurate and causes a lot of confusion.

      Now, your questions:

      1. As someone who had a band an played keys and sang at the same time, I’m very familiar with this question. The answer is: a little of both. Here’s why:

      It’s part background tasking because one activity–in my case, playing the keys– had become automatic and “mindless” to this point through constant practice and repetition. This allowed me to focus more on my delivery of the vocals.

      But its also part switchtasking because there is still switching cost involved. While my brain could handle the load and switch cost of going back and forth between the playing and singing (usually during longer sustained notes) I still was more likely to a) take longer–or be off beat–b) make more mistakes and c) feel more stress. These are all switching costs.

      2. Interpreters of any kind are definitely switchtasking. It’s required by their job, but the switching cost is evident because they a) take longer and fall behind occasionally b) make mistakes (or truncate their interpretation) and c) experience increased stress (more than if they were having an entire conversation in a single language.) The better the interpreter, the smaller the switching cost, but the cost is always there.

      I never teach that we can ever avoid switches completely. That is impossible. All I teach is that we will be more effective in performance if we can reduce switches and, as much as possible, focus on one task at a time.

  • Laura

    Wow! Took me more than twice as long, wrote two letters (twice), then catch up with the numbers, and definitely paused to make sure I spelling & numbering correctly.

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  • Aids 2012

    Cool story bro

  • Stefan Lactose Intolerant

    Haha i like your name aids

    • http://davecrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw


  • Stefan Lactose Intolerant

    Great video Dave just wondering is walking and talking multitasking or is that just being able to do stuff together?

  • Henery C-P

    Really cool, I was distracted by other people.

  • The quirkmonster

    I had a fun time it felt like I was in the video with u :D ;)

  • Joshua

    Now I learnt that I don’t multitasking but I just switch task

  • JessMomMA

    I started writing and then went back and see you are making comments to define what you mean by multitasking and have introduced more term such as switch tasking and background tasking, so maybe that’s where I’m coming up short… I really think the problem is people need to recognizing their shifting or stress level- not that multitasking should usually be avoided. Also, everyone is different. For a person who gets easily bored, multitasking may be a godsend.

    So my original thought is that I don’t think this is a good example of all multitasking. The trick is knowing when working on multiple tasks keeps some of the flow or just causes the switching or interruptions to happen, becoming a hindrance. Another value of multitasking is the variety it adds. This IS a good example of switch tasking, but it is one where it seems pretty obvious the switching is awkward and not a good task to multitask. If I had to write out words and numbers this way I would HATE doing it.

    A better example of a ‘more reasonalbe’ multitask for this example might be to write each word out and then switch to writing the numbers out, so letter(word1), numbers(word1), letter(word2), numbers(word2). Like this:
    then go on to:
    13 14
    15 16 17 18 19 etc.

    See, there’s flow for a sequence, then you switch, but THIS one may be subtle. Is it more efficient, less or about the same? It was hard for me to tell.
    Might it actually make the task more interesting by switching from words to numbers? It might take a little longer, but not SO much longer that it is makes the strategy a hindrance. This might feel faster.

    I timed myself 29 seconds the first way, 56 seconds the switch tasking way, and 32 seconds the way I suggested doing it. It was a little more challenging, but likely to keep my interest longer w/o slowing me down too much. If I had to do this task for an hour, I would likely try several different ways just to keep from being so bored.

    It is definitely clear that when multitasking one has to make decisions all the time to set it up so it works well!

    In this case, as in real life when doing data entry, I often find myself adjusting and fine tuning the process- and then after I’ve done it for a while, I make some large adjustments that do finally make the task more efficient (optimized).
    I’d have to think if multitasking was discouraged in favor of the right way being to finish all the steps first, this might not happen.
    Assembly lines are both an example of NOT multitasking, but only after the most efficient assembly was figured out- and doing the same job may be faster to build a car, but perhaps a bit tedious for those involved.

    There are definitely times when I know my multitasking choices are not making sense. I think we mostly realize that we need to be aware but I’d like to think I ‘catch’ it and adjust. There’s definitely a case to be made that it’s easy to get trapped by the multitasking myth but this example hasn’t swayed me to ditch multitasking, just to be more aware of ‘switches’ etc..

    (-; Jessica

    Oh, for another random ‘speed’ check:
    Because I was lazy, the first time I did the 2nd part of the exercise I actually cheated.
    So instead of this:
    multitasking <—- done correctly: letter, number, letter number, …
    I did
    m1 u2 l3 t4 i5 t6 a7 s8 k9i10 11n g12
    At first I thought, oops, this isn't very fast, but for the smaller letters, it was faster (seemingly)

    Now, when I did the other methods, I realized something else…turns out forcing the tester to switch to another line to write the number makes the task more accurate. When the letters were written vertically I just had to line up the number below it and not "count" the long words..I also think I was less likely to accidentally switch to a sequence than when I alternated letter number on the same line .

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      Well, what can I say? Not everyone will be convinced. But the exercise–as is–serves it’s purpose well in convincing most people in a matter of minutes.

      Keep in mind this is a very short video designed for YouTube. It’s meant to be very surface. Based on your lengthy post, you seem to want more “meat”.

      So, if you still have an open mind and want to dive deeper, I encourage you to:

      1) Read The Myth of Multitasking http://amzn.to/1d5hVxa This cites numerous studies and has a lengthy bibliography.

      2) Complete my Time Management Fundamentals course on lynda.com: http://bit.ly/TimeCourse This is an in-depth hands-on application of how to get more time in your day.

  • Heidi

    Amazing exercise. So enlightening! Thanks!

  • Darius Pieter Oosthuizen

    Hi Dave,

    I watched your Lynda.com Time Management course. I’ve got a question regarding your rule about not multitasking. I do a lot of video editing and working on the web. I usually wait a lot in my work. Waiting for various stuff, like videos rendering, pages loading and just waiting before I can go on with my work. What is your suggestion to do while I wait, cause this takes me much longer than it should and I need to know how to manage my time.

    Thank you very much for your time


    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      Hi Darius. Thanks for the comment and for watching the lynda course! http://bit.ly/TimeCourse

      What you’re describing is background tasking, not switchtasking. It’s perfectly appropriate and productive to do background tasking.

      See my featured comment at the top of a page for an explanation, if needed.

  • Vinit Kolhapure

    Hi, Dave I had came across time management tutorials though lynda as a University student in UK and I must say they were very helpful and based on true principles which were very convincing to me which have brought the lasting change in me….I more than often go through tutorials to sharpen my skills which helped me to direct my focus and spend time on valuable things and priorities…thanks for bringing lifelong change…

    • http://DaveCrenshaw.com/ Dave Crenshaw

      Hi,Vinit. Welcome to my site, and thank you for your kinds words. Please feel free to comment any time you like and help your fellow learners on my blog.

      All the best,