# Multitasking is an impossible task
Multitaskers feel that they're more productive executing multiple tasks at once, but unfortunately they are actually less productive when measured. There are many studies that have proven how multitasking is counterproductive. Based on those studies, we can't multitask as we can only give our attention to one task at a time. Multitasking is therefore an act of switching our attention from one task to another back and forth repeatedly, giving the illusion that we can execute multiple tasks at once. The reason this is counterproductive is because we are paying a cost every time we switch our attention.
Not only we can only pay attention to one task at a time, we can also only utilise one of our many types of attention at one time (Only one type of attention can be given to one thing at one time). These two limitations render multitasking as an impossible task.
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 57).
Psychologists who interviewed the multitaskers did test them instead of just asking. They gave them different tasks to accomplish and compared their results with another group that was instructed to do only one thing at a time. The outcome is unambiguous: While those who multitasked felt more productive, their productivity actually decreased - a lot (Wang and Tchernev 2012; Rosen 2008; Ophir, Nass, and Wager 2009). Not only the quantity but also the quality of their accomplishments lagged significantly behind that of the control group.
- Context switching helps when you get stuck
- Context switching is bad for productivity. It's the reason why Multitasking is an impossible task. It's the reason why you should prefer to measure your productivity by uninterrupted hours (DeMarco and Lister 63). It's also the reason why you shouldn't interrupt a programmer. But is context switching always harmful for productivity?
- Slow-motion multitasking
- Notice how not only these ideas took time to develop, but they were also developing in parallel. Tim Hardford calls this idea slow-motion multitasking. Slow-motion is the emphasis here as the non slow-motion mode in contrast is counterproductive (Multitasking is an impossible task)