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OHIO Improves Efficiency More than Multitasking

OHIO Improves Efficiency More than Multitasking

Posted on: December 7, 2021

multitasking

People claim a mastery of multi-tasking, but fail miserably. When presented with two or more sensory inputs, we can only focus on one at a time. The act of rubbing one’s belly in a circular motion while patting one’s head or vice-versa has challenged “multitaskers” for eons. Multitasking decreases one’s ability to capture and retain vital information.

Donald Broadbent conducted an experiment, in the 1950s, to test whether people could understand and retain information from two simultaneous conversations. Broadbent placed a headphone over the participant’s ears and simultaneously played two people reciting different dialogue into each ear. Broadbent concluded that people can listen to only one voice at a time (Bariso, 2021).

Patrick Winston, a professor at MIT, explained that “we humans have only one language processor”(Bariso, 2021, para. 9), that’s our brain. When our brains are engaged in an activity competing with listening to the speaker we’re distracted. Therefore we’re incapable of collecting and retaining the information provided by the speaker.

Miller (n. d.) explained that humans try to cheat time by multitasking. Sadly, that’s impossible. Multitasking is actually the act of rapidly switching between tasks (Miller, n. d., Enz et al., 2021). Miller (n. d., Slide 9) further stated, “Your brain has a limited capacity for simultaneous thought.”

According to Miller (n. d., Slide 11), “The average adult human can, at best, think only 3-4 things simultaneously.” Fukuda, Awh, and Vogel reported (as cited by Miller, n. d.), that a person’s capability decreases as the number of simultaneous activities increase.

In a study of 100s of Sanford students, researchers provided a series of images (Figure 1) for participants. The second image showed a set of squares of different colors. The third image was black and showed for only one-second. The fourth image showed the squares again, but one of the squares was now a different color. The participants were required to identify the square that changed colors. As the number of squares increased, the performance of participants claiming they can handle a lot of simultaneous tasks actually decreased compared to those claiming they handle fewer simultaneous tasks (Figure 2) (Ophir et al., as cited by Miller, n. d.).

University of California, San Francisco researchers explained that short-term, or “working” memory “is the basis of all mental operations.” (O’Brien, 2011, para. 2). Multitasking leads to an attention and memory problem more than solely a memory problem. The research provided participants with a scene and asked to maintain their thoughts on the scene for 14.4 seconds. The participants were then presented with a image of a face and asked to identify the age and sex of the face. Then the participants were asked to remember the original scene (O’Brien, 2011).

Through use of a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI), the researchers were able to see the reallocation of neural resources upon the interruption. “Younger adults re-established connection with the memory maintenance network following the interruption and disengaged from the interrupting image. The older adults, on the other hand, failed both to disengage from the interruption and to reestablish the neural network associated with the disrupted memory” (O’Brien, 2011, para. 8).

According to MacMillan (2016), psychiatrists and productivity experts recommend practicing OHIO: Only Handle It Once. Sufferers of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are taught to apply OHIO to all their situations. OHIO helps them to focus on one task at a time. For non-ADHD individuals, OHIO helps them achieve a higher level of organization and efficiency.

When in a meeting, classroom, or other situation, one should apply OHIO. Through the application of OHIO, one can capture more, comprehend more, and make rational decisions based on the information presented. Multitasking decreases one’s ability to accurately capture, comprehend, and make rational decisions.


Bariso, J. (2021). A Respected MIT Professor Had a Simple 5-Word Rule for His Classroom, and Every Company Should Follow It. Inc. https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/mit-patrick-winston-rule-of-engagement-how-to-be-a-better-listener-how-to-speak-no-laptops-no-cell-phones-emotional-intelligence.html

Enz, S., Hall, A. C. G., Williams, K. K. (2021). The Myth of Multitasking and What It Means for Future Pharmacists. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. https://www.ajpe.org/content/ajpe/early/2021/03/24/ajpe8267.full.pdf

MacMillan, A. (2016). 12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now! Health.com. Slide 12. https://www.health.com/condition/adhd/12-reasons-to-stop-multitasking-now?slide=16c8ea7b-eb67-46f3-b309-

8498afede7ff#16c8ea7b-eb67-46f3-b309-8498afede7ff

Miller, E. K. (n. d.). Multitasking: Why Your Brain Can’t Do It and What You Should Do About It. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. http://radius.mit.edu/sites/default/files/images/Miller%20Multitasking%202017.pdf

O’Brien, J. (2011). UCSF Study on Multitasking Reveals Switching Glitch in Aging Brain. University of California, San Francisco. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2011/04/98360/ucsf-study-multitasking-reveals-switching-glitch-aging-brain