Data and Statistics
Cost of ADHD
The Science of ADHD
The Importance of Science
Understanding Research Studies
Levels of Evidence for ADHD Interventions
Treatment of ADHD
Complementary and Other Interventions
Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback)
Fish Oil Supplements and ADHD
Nutrition and ADHD
Questions and Answers
Carrying Your Medication
ADHD, Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Tics and Tourette Syndrome
Professionals Who Diagnose and Treat ADHD
Hospital and University ADHD Centers
Insurance and Public Benefits
The Insurance System
Paying for Medications
Private Health Insurance
Public Health Insurance
Frequently Asked Questions about ADHD
Myths and Misunderstandings
Glossary of Terms
ADHD in the News
Fact Sheets on ADHD
For Parents & Caregivers
Parent Training and Education
Social Skills Interventions
Coexisting Conditions in Children
Pediatric Bipolar Disorder
Substance Abuse and ADHD
Common Coexisting Conditions in Children
Preschoolers and ADHD
Behavioral Therapy for Young Children
ADHD and Childcare
Diagnosing ADHD in Adolescence
Treatment of Teens with ADHD
ADHD Information for Teens
Parenting Teens with ADHD
Questions and Answers
Teens with ADHD and Driving
Teens and Driving
Medication Abuse and Diversion
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Requesting an Evaluation in Public Schools
Tips for Working with the School
Tips for Talking to Teachers about ADHD
Finding the Right College
Disclosing ADHD During the Admissions Process
Succeeding in College with ADHD
Scholarships & Financial Aid
Questions and Answers
Tips for Completing Homework
How to Communicate with your Child’s Teacher
Homework Help for ADHD
Surviving the Holidays with ADHD
Diagnosis of ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
ADHD and the Military
How to Succeed in the Workplace
Laws and Legal Protections
Americans with Disabilities - ADA & ADAAA
Legal Rights in Higher Education and the Workplace
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Finding an Attorney or Legal Advocate
Living with ADHD: A Lifespan Disorder
Women and Girls
ADHD Medication and Pregnancy
ADHD and Driving
Organization and Time Management
Relationships & Social Skills
Marriage and Partnerships
Social Skills in Adults with ADHD
Mastering Social Skills
Time Management: Step-By-Step with a Day Planner
Apps for ADHD
For Healthcare Professionals
Clinical Practice Guidelines
The ADHD Diagnostic Process
Diagnosis in Adults
Diagnosis in Children
Clinical Practice Tools
Evaluation and Assessment Tools
Rating Scales and Checklists
Treatment of Adults
The Role of Medication
Teacher Training on ADHD
Tips for Teachers Video Series
Recursos en español
Tips and Resources
Medical Benefit Program
Start a Group
Current CHADD Volunteers
Volunteer Leader Center
Login to your CHADD email
Edit your website
Other Local Support Resources
Find a Study
Post a Research Study
Young Scientist Awards
CHADD's Amazon Store
P2P On Demand Webinars
CHADD Advocacy Manual
Training & Events
Save the Date - 2018 Conference on ADHD
Call for Papers - 2018 Conference on ADHD
2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD
2017 Conference Web Site
Pre Conference Handouts -Thursday 11/9/17
General Conference Handouts -Friday 11/10/17
General Conference Handouts - Saturday 11/11/17
General Conference Handouts - Sunday 11/12/17
Conference Program Book
Order the 2017 CHADD Conference In-A-Box
ADHD Awareness Month
ADHD Awareness Month Calendar
Ask the Expert
Ask the Expert Educator Edition
Parent to Parent Program
P2P On Demand Sessions
Family Training on ADHD In Your Community
Teacher to Teacher
Teacher to Teacher - School System
Calendar of Events
Training for Professionals
Health Care Providers
Training for Parents
Transitioning to Adulthood
Find a Chapter
Local Affiliate Resources
Tools and Resources
Start a Group
Recruitment & Retention Tools
Renew My Membership
The ADHD Tool Kit
Membership Types and Benefits
Get Listed in CHADD's Resource Directory
JOIN CHADD - International Membership
JOIN CHADD - US Membership
Attention Magazine Subscriptions
Attention Magazine - Digital Editions
CHADD Discount Advantage Programs
Mission and History
National Resource Center
Boards and Staff
Board of Directors
Professional Advisory Board
Public Policy Committee
CHADD Funding Sources
Advertise with CHADD
2018 Annual Meeting - Exhibitor Information
Jobs at CHADD
Report a Problem
Gifts that Lead
Gifts that Sustain
Gifts that Double
Other Ways to Donate
Corporate Partner Members
Donate Your Vehicle
ADHD Weekly Newsletter
Are You a Multitasker?
Join the discussion.
Do you think you’re good at multitasking?
Researchers say humans can’t really “multitask.” Instead, what we are actually doing is “task switching.” We may be making the switch rapidly among several tasks but our brains, even those brains affected by ADHD, can only process one thought or task at a time.
A group of
Stanford University researchers
decided to look at how well our brains multitask and what the effect of chronic multitasking is on our brains and our lives. They found multitasking actually makes people less effective at their work and impairs their decision-making abilities. On top of that, most multitaskers experienced more stress.
However, there was one group of people in the study who didn’t experience additional stress when multitasking, but nevertheless had significant dips in productivity and decision-making: Adults who displayed ADHD characteristics.
Multitasking and crazy-busy
The 1990s and 2000s saw an interest in multitasking–we’d be able to do more, accomplish more, be more productive by simply working on more than one thing at a time. After all, if you can fold laundry and watch TV or read a book while music plays, why not also send emails, skim the daily news, and carry on a conversation? Since then we’ve added more digital media, social media, and electronic devices that let you access your work and personal email from anywhere, at any time. There’s now social media bringing instant messages from friends and celebrities that require attention.
Being connected, multitasking, and the appearance of “crazy-busy” all seem to have become popular badges of honor.
Adults affected by ADHD
tend to struggle with inattention and seek out novelty. For them, task-switching is natural, as the brain looks for something new or exciting, or at least not what it typically does. For people with ADHD, working on two or three projects at a time seems to make sense. Digital media are always offering something new, and so ADHD brains become accustomed to the jolt of energy from a new post or news article.
Is multitasking efficient for anyone?
Stanford University researchers
looked at a group of multitaskers for the study who used multimedia and social media while working on other tasks. The participants were separated into “high media multitaskers” and “low media multitaskers.” The researchers found the people who were low media multitaskers
who had fewer interruptions and less use of digital media—were better able to stay on task and maintain focus on a single task, despite distractions introduced by the researchers. The high media multitaskers showed the opposite behaviors
they were more likely to respond to distractions and go off task into other activities. The researchers note that high media multitaskers “may be sacrificing performance on the primary task to let in other sources of information.”
The separate study
Multitasking in Adults with ADHD
put the theory of multitasking to the test. The authors compared task performance, mood, and motivation in 45 men diagnosed with ADHD and 42 men who did not have a diagnosis. Both groups were measured on how well they did with tasks under three different conditions: multitasking, tasks subject to interruption that had to be completed without planning or monitoring, and tasks that were not interrupted. The goal was to create a multitasking situation that included portions of tasks being completed at different times, rather than one task completed all at once.
The results of this study showed that people affected by ADHD were no better or worse at multitasking, as researchers had thought, but they were less likely to be stressed-out by interruption and maintained a more positive outlook about their work, even when interrupted, than those not diagnosed with ADHD.
What multitasking does to the brain
Describing the Stanford study
, Travis Bradberry, PhD, noted, “The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.” He went on to say, “Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.”
The Stanford researchers also found the more people are interrupted, especially when novelty was involved, the shorter their attention spans become. A good number of those individuals then become “self interrupters” who begin to create their own interruptions, such as checking social media status updates frequently, and are drawn away from their tasks.
When a person also has ADHD, the tendency towards self-interruption is greater. Frequent self-interruption, in turn, aggravates already existing ADHD symptoms. Researchers also estimate that it took, on average, 23 minutes to completely come back on task after an interruption. Working on multiple projects at once showed that a person’s brain doesn’t completely refocus on the task or multiple tasks when task-switching. This leads to reduced work performance, more errors, and poorer decision-making, the researchers saw.
How to get things done
Marla Cummins is coach and the author of the ebook ADD to Done: Beyond Stuck, Procrastination and Overwhelm.
Ms. Cummins has clients who often claim to be “really good at multitasking,”
. “When I hear this from adults with ADHD, they usually mean that they have a lot of energy to keep on going. It usually does not mean working effectively and efficiently."
Ms. Cummins says
that because there are so many transitions as you move back and forth between tasks, you may:
lose track of where you are on a task and have to start over
need more time to finish a task
become more overwhelmed
What can you do to avoid multitasking and work on one project at a time to be more efficient? Ms. Cummins suggests:
Review your non-negotiable appointments (meetings, car pool, dinner, etc.) and prioritize what is most important.
Mark target dates on your task list or calendar.
Decide on the task to be completed and what will be tabled for the moment.
Break down your tasks and schedule work time for each part. Keep your schedule visible to help stay on track.
Use a timer to remind yourself of when you need to transition between tasks. If you think you might forget where you are in a particular task, make notes for yourself before moving on; this will make it easier to resume working on the task later.
Plan enough time so you do not feel hurried between tasks. It’s better to overestimate the time needed for a task
You Can Complete More without Multitasking
Additional suggestions include:
Keep cellphones and tablets on silent and out of sight.
Turn off TVs and keep music low.
Work during times of the day when there are fewer people in the office or at home.
Use computer settings that limit access to the Internet or social media for set amounts of time.
Looking for more?
Organization and Time Management
Using a Day Planner
Mindfulness Helps Some People Manage ADHD
What it is like for you when you are multitasking?
Can you really multitask? Many adults affected by ADHD claim they can, but researchers are not so sure it’s possible. Keep reading for what they discovered, along with suggestions on how to get more done.
This article appeared in
June 08, 2017.
The information provided on this website was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number NU38DD005376 funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.