Parallel Tasking

Question: Can you chew gum and walk at the same time? 

The problem with multitasking is that the human brain cannot do certain things at the exact same time and able to fully process the information. For example, one could try to read a book and watch TV at the exact same time; however, instead of comprehending both inputs fully, one ends up either paying attention to the book or focusing on the television. As a result, neither is completed very well and time is wasted when shifting from one activity (the book) to the other one (the TV) and vice versa.

Yet, you CAN combine some tasks without diminishing your effectiveness or wasting time. The classic example would be chewing gum and walking. There are some ways that you can focus on several items concurrently. I call this strategy parallel tasking.

Here are some examples:

  • Walking and listening to an audio program
  • Traveling on an airplane and completing administrative tasks
  • Waiting in the doctor’s office and reading a book
  • Eating breakfast and having a meeting

The big advantage of parallel tasking is it does not encounter the ‘time cost’ of so-called multitasking as there is no switching. Both activities occur simultaneously without any confusion or reduced output. For example, the time spent waiting in the doctor’s office or flying in a plane is going to pass, regardless of what you choose to do. The best option is to take advantage of such moments and make them super productive. It does take some forethought and planning, but it is certainly worth the effort.

Remember: if parallel tasking is not an option due the nature of the tasks, I recommend you follow the serial tasking rules instead.