Why the word multitasking is inaccurate

I’m here in Wisconsin speaking to the Wisconsin Title and Loan Association group about the Myth of Multitasking, and it got me thinking about all the chaos that the word “multitasking” creates and why it should be replaced entirely.  

The confusion lies in the fact that multitasking is used to describe two very different scenarios. The first, and most inefficient, one is what I call “switch-tasking.” Switch-tasking is when you are trying to do multiple active tasks that require attention, and you are switching back and forth between those tasks. The switching comes at a cost that can never be avoided. The other scenario is what I call “background-tasking” and is very efficient! This is when you are tackling mundane, repetitive and often automatic tasks in the background. Examples would include jogging on the treadmill while you catch up on the news or sending a big print job to the printer while you focus on another task.  

By using one word to describe both processes, chaos is created. You may think because you are good at background-tasking, you must also be good at switch-tasking. After all, you currently know them both as “multitasking.” This leads to confusion and inefficiency. Try to pay attention and observe which kind of “tasking” you are doing and if it is efficient. Finally, let’s just agree to use different words!