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The Myth of Multi-tasking

Morgan Nel | ACSI Assistant Director

As you are all too well-aware, a day in the life of a teacher is usually quite hectic. Running at full speed at optimal levels; displaying expertise in any given subject field; mistakenly being called “Dad” or “Mom” by a learner needing affection; gobbling down a cold cup of coffee as you run from the staff room to the playground to be in time for break duty; ridiculed by spectators while reffing a match; and finally, the parent complaining about her son’s Maths results.

As some would say, “Teaching is not for sissies!” So, to get everything done on time we master the art of multi-tasking in no time.

The reality is that multi-tasking gets a bad rap. When gleaning from experts like Dr Caroline Leaf, or cognitive neuroscientist, Dr Amishi P. Jha, you discover that your brain is not designed to multi-task. You do not have the capacity to do a bunch of demanding or important tasks simultaneously.

What really happens when you think you are multi-tasking, is that you are actually switching between tasks. Another reality is that it reduces your productivity and efficiency.

Multi-tasking leads to:

  1. Reduced focus: Your attention is divided among tasks, making it harder to concentrate deeply on any one thing.
  2. Increased errors: Juggling multiple tasks can lead to mistakes as your brain struggles to keep up with the demands of each.
  3. Slower completion: Contrary to popular belief, multitasking can slow you down because of the time it takes for your brain to refocus every time you switch tasks.
  4. Higher stress levels: Constantly shifting between tasks can increase stress and mental fatigue, affecting overall well-being.

Instead of multi-tasking, focusing on one task at a time allows you to give it your full attention and produce higher quality work more efficiently. It’s often better to prioritise tasks, tackle them one by one, and give each the concentration they deserve.

I want to encourage you to mono-task. Do something as simple as making a choice to put your phone on silent during a meeting or asking people not to disturb you while you are marking in the staff room.

You can also list your to-dos in a new way, helping you to prioritise your urgent tasks, important tasks, delegating certain tasks and even saying no to other tasks that are not your core task at a school. I am certain that your stress levels, resulting in fear or anxiety, will drop.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7

More recommended reading:

  1. The Eisenhower Matrix: How to Prioritise Your To-do List (find it on Google)
  2. Any information from Dr Caroline Leaf.
  3. Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention by cognitive neuroscientist and author Dr Amishi P. Jha.