Multitasking – the modern epidemic

There has always been something peculiar about humans’ insatiable desire to explore, experience, achieve and control everything conceivable. For all the eras gone by, we were bogged down by the constraints of time and space. And then suddenly, there was an explosion of technology, and those constraints began to get conquered literally ‘bit by bit’. As a result, in the name of speed and efficiency, we witnessed the emergent era of ‘multitasking’.

Backed by this potent force of technology, we thus began to do multiple things together. It was as if we had discovered multiple brains and additional hands. There was always space for more place and pace. However, we didn’t realize that in the pursuit of quantity and efficiency, we might be compromising quality and effectiveness. Well, before we discuss this point in details, watch this video to get the gist of what we are discussing, why it is important, and how it is relevant in professional and personal context…



You heard it right – Multitasking is not good for accuracy, quality, and even emotional stability. Yes, doing many things together is neither good for doing something well nor for feeling good or for behaving aptly. Well, like for any other behavior, the root of this point lies in neuroscience. If we look at our brain then we will realize that our brain cannot multitask. That’s it. It can’t. In fact, what we call multitasking is actually switch-tasking. To understand it better, let’s see what happens in a person’s brain when he is writing an email to the client and suddenly he gets a text message from his friend.

At the beginning of writing email to the client, blood rushes quickly to Anterior Prefrontal Cortex in person’s brain. This area plays role of a switchboard; that is, sends an alert to the brain for shifting the attention. First, this alert searches for those neurons – i.e. brain cells – which are capable for this task, and then rouses those neurons. This process is called rule-activation. Now when friend ‘s text message comes then as the rules of messaging to friend are different from rules of writing email to the client, brain disengages itself from the first task and repeats this process for the second task.

Well, every time when person switches task, a stop-start process gets activated in the brain. Every time, this start-stop-start process takes some milliseconds, and also a part of the energy. The result is ‘continuous partial attention’ that leads to mental exhaustion and emotional reactiveness. To acknowledge this subtle phenomenon at work and do the needful, social & emotional intelligence is required. This ‘emotional & social intelligence’ is a lot about one’s cognizance of the structure and functioning of human brain, and how they affect our behaviors and choices.

This interconnection of neuroscience and psychology sets the foundation for developing emotional & social intelligence – the skill of managing self and connecting with others. Yes, this root-skill of all intrapersonal & interpersonal skills can be learnt, practiced and mastered. However, it all begins with some important realizations like…“Multitasking is not good for accuracy, quality, and even emotional stability”.


Dr. Sandeep Atre

‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert

Founder – Socialigence

Note: Socialigence ( offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Social & Emotional Intelligence’ with content that has relevance across the globe, and delivery specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.