Most of us are familiar with the adage “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” But, how often do we put that idea into practice? With much to get done in what seems like less and less time, we attempt to multitask. But, is there really such a thing?

What The Experts Say

I learned, through what turned into medical research beyond my most basic comprehension, that decisions are processed in the front part of the brain called the lateral prefrontal cortex (see what I mean?). When the brain is challenged to process multiple activities at once, it essentially aligns those requests in a queue and processes them one at a time. So, this has led researchers to agree that the brain is actually unable to multitask. We’ve just been fooling ourselves into thinking we have superhuman powers.

Even more interesting, though, is that researchers now believe our attempts to multitask could be negatively affecting not only our tasks, but also our brains. An article from Stanford University’s Stanford Report explains how three researchers curious about the brain’s ability to multitask were left with results indicating “the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.” Their research revealed that multitasking during cognitive tasks dropped a man’s IQ to the average of an 8-year-old child. (Dare I tell you that this article indicated multitasking could actually be speeding up the aging process.)

What This Means For You and Me

If you’re like me, “speeding up” is not anything you want associated with the aging process. And I’m confident your desire to multitask is not to actually perform tasks more poorly. So, maybe we should heed the advice of Creighton Abrams and remember to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Give our full attention to the task at hand and, once complete, move on to focus on the next. (You multitasking mavens are starting to twitch, I can sense it.)

If you’re interested in a friendly reminder of this idea that you can post up in your workspace, here’s my favorite 10-point manifesto by Fischli/Weiss titled “How To Work Better.” The first statement reminds us to “Do one thing at a time,” but there’s so much wisdom in the other nine statements, as well.