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Multitasking is a Lie!















To get everything done these days, it seems like we need to do a million things at once.  Multitasking has become an "essential skill" in the eyes of many people.  Multitasking, however, is actually a myth.  It can’t really be done. When people think they are multitasking, they are actually "task shifting," sometimes with disasterous results. This group activity is inspired by (and based on) an activity by David Crenshaw (author, speaker and business coach) on his website. It fosters “buy-in” by creating cognitive dissonance between your students’ beliefs and the truth about multitasking!



Multitasking sheet from David Crenshaw’s website (or create your own), stopwatch (or several stopwatches-most smart phones have a clock and as part of that Ap is a stopwatch), pencils or pens



Ask the group what it means to “multitask.”  Have them assess their own multitasking ability level.  I am sure some of them believe that they are formidible multitaskers.  Find out what multitasking activities are they believe they are good at and not so good at?  Are there times when multitasking can be dangerous?  How about texting and driving?  Now, tell the group that multitasking cannot be done!  Sure you can walk and breathe and eat; those are “automatic” activities that don’t involve focused attention.   You can’t possibly multitask when two activitie simultaneously demand your conscious attention.


The Action:

While you could have David give the directions using the video on his website,  I prefer to give the directions myself using his printout.  If you don’t use his sheet, simply use a blank piece of paper and have the participants draw 4 straight lines across the paper at relatively equal intervals. 


  • Round 1- On line 3, instruct participants to write “Multitasking is worse than a lie” when you say "Go."  Time their effort.  If there are many participants and only one stopwatch, have each student say “done” when they finish.  Simply call out the times as they finish and have them write down the time you called out. 

  • Round 2- On line 4, when you say “go,” participants should write the numbers 1 to 27 in order.  Again, time the effort and have them record their times. 

  • Round 3- On lines 1 and 2, participants will write “Multitasking is worse than a lie” while simultaneously writing the numbers 1 to 27, alternating letters and numbers.  So, they will start by writing the letter “M” on line “1” followed by the number 1 on line 2.  Then the letter “u” on line 1 and the number “2” on line 2 and so on.  Again, time the effort.


In all likelihood, the time for round 3 will be at least double the combined time for rounds 1 and 2.  Why does this happen if they were writing the same thing in round 3 as they wrote in rounds 1 and 2?


The Debrief:

  • Multitasking is actually task-shifting, or shifting your attention quickly between two tasks.  What were the results of this task-shifting activity?  How can this impact your day-to-day lives?

  • If you just wrote the same thing in round 3 as you did in rounds 1 and 2, why did it take twice as long?

  • Did you make any mistakes? What does that tell us about the impact of trying to multitask?

  • When in your life have you tried to multitask and had it not work well?





Team Building

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