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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

So You Think You Can Multi Task?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 24th 2012

So You Think You Can Multi Task?

So You Think You Can Multi Task?I often hear women saying that they can multitask, as opposed to their men, because they have always had to. Can this be true? Are women better than men at multitasking? I hear this from such people as my wife, her friends and female friends of mine. In fact, even men seem to agree that women are better at multitasking than they are.

In actuality, all the brain and neurological research done recently shows that all of us can multitask but at an enormous cost to the things we are trying to do. To learn more about this, I direct all of my readers to, John Medina, "Brain Rules." As he reports, when we try to multi-task, it takes us 50% longer to accomplish tasks and we make 50% more mistakes. As Richard Hallowell, Psychiatrist and author of many books on ADHD points out, our brain is unable to consciously pay attention to two or more tasks at the same time.

There are profoundly important reasons for this research. What is now know about the brain and how it functions can have consequences for Alzheimer's disease and whether or not the onset can be delayed. To be specific, we can train our brains to be more efficient and, therefore, to go about our tasks, whether at work or home, more efficiently. This then impacts on our physical health.

Medina points out that we should focus on one task at a time, finishing one and going on to the next. In addition, remember to breath, taking deep breaths and move around every twenty or so minutes in order to reduce anxiety and function better.

He also points out that there are seven activities that, if we did them, we would improve brain function, including memory, and physical and emotional health. They are:

1. Be physically active, moderate exercise, and that can include short walks several times a week, is good for physical and emotional health,

2. Sleep for seven to eight hours per night. Sleeping five or less hours is equivalent to being intoxicated,

3. Eat a nutritious and balanced diet with deep green vegetables and berries,

4. Learn new things because that keeps the brain active,

5. Make a list of important tasks to be seen to and do them one at a time and in sequence,

6. Be socially involved. Interaction with people is shown to have intellectual and emotional benefits. This includes joining new groups and meeting new friends, 

7. Develop an optimistic attitude and that is more likely to happen by following these seven steps. Learning mediation and mindfulness are an important part of learning optimism by focusing more on the present moment than the past. Doing this reduces stress.
(All of this and more will be found in Medina's book).

The fact is that our brain cells can continue to grow regardless of our age. There is no limit on learning. The old saying that "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," is not true.

As Medina says of these seven tasks, they help build more effective brains. It's worth it, don't you think?

Finally, all of this is helpful for those with ADHD, as well as the rest of us.

Let's keep our minds alive and, remember, you can't really multitask.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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