Let’s Get Ready to…multitask?

Multitasking is bad. Dual tasking can be challenging, dangerous, or therapeutic. Right?

Multi-tasking (MT) is entirely different than DT. We do know this to be true. By definition (McIsaac, Plummer 2015) DT requires simultaneous operation of two discrete tasks. It APPEARS as though most people MT by task-switching. Task-switching across 3 or more tasks simply means that we suspend one task and actually leave it as far as attention, while we prioritize another. The skill in MT is knowing when and how long to switch. There is always a cost of task switching, a refractory period. The most skilled MT individuals know how to switch, are efficient in returning, and prioritize well.

So…what am I saying? Is MT bad? We should all agree that these blanket statements are not considerate of the person-specific nature of our world. We should all understand that one person’s (danger) precaution is another person’s skill/talent.

So, MT in the context of driving, when an error can cost lives – that is an easy answer. MT in a vocational setting where an individual must monitor several gauges and direct a vessel, is necessary in some situations and may represent the functions of a pilot (airline, boat, heavy machinery).

From a rehabilitative perspective, the decisions can be fairly straightforward. We must evaluate movement and as best we can, prepare our patients to safely and effectively face the environments that they must live in for work, life or play. If they are not safe or healthy in DT or MT, we are in a position to advise, or train them, as their motivation and condition affords recovery.