Attention All Multi-Taskers — How Attentive Are You?

8 Dec

I used to call myself a multi-tasker (and was very proud of this term). As a Mom, wife, therapist, chauffer, chef, maid, etc., I used to think I could do it all — and all at the same time.

But, according to the latest research, not only does multi-tasking NOT exist, it can actually create more conflict in your life. Stay with me here…multitasking

Turns out, study after study shows that we can only “focus” on one thing at a time, even if our hands and eyes are going in multiple directions. By looking at brain  scans of people who were shifting focus from task to task, researchers started to notice that we’re only concentrating on one task at one time, even if we think we’re doing more than one.

What’s more is this: The TIME it takes to shift from one task to another is about 20 seconds. So, even when you’re finished focusing on one task, you need about 20 seconds to “shift” to the other task. Which explains why texting and driving is so dangerous — even when we shift our eyes back to the road, we’re still not focused on our driving for 20 seconds!

So, what does this have to do with conflict resolution? Well, if we’re not 100% focused on what the other person is saying or we’re distracted while someone is talking to us, we simply aren’t listening. And, when you shift your focus back to him/her, it takes about 20 seconds to fully re-engage in the conversation.

That inattentiveness makes the environment ripe for conflict. After all, how can we hear what the other person is saying when we’re not listening?!

I’ve stopped saying I’m a “multi-tasker” because I have to face it — I’m not. And, I’ve certainly stopped teasing my husband for his inability to do more than one thing at a time. Turns out, he was right all along!



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