It’s a well-established fact that trying to multitask only leads to disaster. It’s why humans are so bad at texting while talking, for instance—your brain just doesn’t have the ability to process multiple stimuli at once. So when psychology professor David Strayer conducted a study on drivers who multitasked, he expected to find that his subjects were unable to drive safely with the distraction. Instead, what he discovered was a group of multitaskers unlike the rest of us, whose performances actually improved as situations became more intense. These people, as Strayer eventually dubbed them, are supertaskers.
They only make up an estimated two percent of the population, but their skills and cognition actually get better as more pressure is put on them. Strayer and his colleagues presume that supertasking is a genetically inherited trait, but they’re still trying to figure out just how the minds of the supertasker and the average multitasker differ, and whether one can be trained to reach supertasker status.
So how do you know whether you’re part of the two percent of the population blessed with supertasking skills? Use this article to compare your qualities against those of the quintessential multitasking maestro. And for insight into your personality, don’t miss the 20 Signs You’re Definitely a Narcissist.
You thrive under pressure.
Supertaskers don’t back down in times of stress. On the contrary, this is when they thrive best, as they get to utilize their quick decision-making skills and process information on the fly. When the going gets tough, the supertaskers get going. But if you can’t handle the pressure, try these 30 Ways to De-Stress in Just 30 Seconds (or Less!).
You take in information quickly and with ease.
When you’re juggling multiple tasks at once, you don’t exactly have time to dwell on every last detail. Therefore, one of the trademarks of a supertasker is the ability to receive truckloads of information, process it, and quickly and effortlessly categorize it in your brain so you can use it accordingly.
You aren’t easily distracted.
In an office environment, the supertaskers are the people who aren’t phased by the conversations of their coworkers. That’s because they have an uncanny ability to filter background noise out and only focus on what’s important. Even daydreams and internal musings can’t disrupt a supertasker when they’re in the zone (though they’ll quickly respond to an email from the boss).
You don’t multitask often.
Ironically, the best multitaskers are those who don’t often try to do two things at once. Rather, they are better able to eliminate distractions (like a cell phone in the car) to only focus on one thing at a time. Supertasker or not, you should never be on your phone while driving—and you should also make use of these 6 Genius Driving Secrets That Could Save Your Life.
You aren’t weighed down by your emotions.
Many employees wear their hearts on their sleeves, which can translate into less work getting done and feelings being taken out on coworkers. “If your cognitive resources are overwhelmed with feelings, you’re less efficient,” psychologist Daphne Bavelier explained to Psychology Today. But if you’re a supertasker, then you’re able to keep your emotions in check and don’t let your emotions get in the way of your duties at work.
You have an excellent memory.
Not only can supertaskers process information well, but they also have an uncanny ability to remember what they process. Why? One study from the University of California, San Francisco found that multitasking maestros are better equip to ignore background information that isn’t pertinent to the task at hand. And to dive deeper into the inner workings of the mind, don’t miss these 35 Crazy Facts about Your Memory.
One of the biggest reasons that supertaskers do so well in high-stress situations is because they can prioritize attainable goals over unrealistic ones. For instance, when multitasking extraordinaire and Red Cross employee Keith Alvey was sent to help with Hurricane Sandy, he immediately knew to hone in on the issues that could be resolved, and filter out and ignore the rest.
“There are 100-plus decisions to make, and 75 percent of those I can do nothing about,” Alvey explained to Psychology Today about his mindset during the hurricane relief efforts.
You’re good at playing video games.
Between chatting with other players, observing your surroundings, and playing the actual game, video games require quite a bit of multitasking. So naturally, those who game best are those who are supertaskers. And what’s more, researchers have found that playing video games can improve multitasking abilities and attention span in those who aren’t yet at the supertasker level. And if you’re on the hunt for some new games, check out the 8 Cutting-Edge Video Games That Will Make You Smarter.
You don’t second-guess your decisions.
A supertasker never second-guesses their decisions—because they don’t have time to. Their brains are so efficiently wired that when other people would be doubting their decisions and feeling anxious about potential screw-ups, they’re already devoting their energy to the next thing.
You gravitate toward stressful environments.
“Supertaskers may naturally gravitate toward fields that reward those who can juggle multiple inputs exceptionally well—the high-end restaurant chefs or football quarterbacks of the world,” wrote one writer at The New Yorker. This goes hand-in-hand with a supertasker’s superior ability to work in stressful environments and process hordes of information at once. And if you’d rather relax at the office (because we can’t all be supertaskers), check out the 20 Best Jobs if You’re Over 40.
You don’t think you’re good at multitasking.
Ironically, Strayer found in his studies that the more a person believed themselves to be a good multitasker, the worse they actually were. “We tend to overrate our ability to multitask,” the neuroscientist told The New Yorker.
You ignore useless background noise.
Naturally, your brain is particularly sensitive to everything it takes in, but supertaskers filter out useless information and only take in the important details. And to learn more about your mind, don’t miss the 35 Crazy Facts about Your Memory.
You delegate as much as possible.
Supertaskers are able to de-clutter their minds by delegating smaller tasks to other people. With less on their plate, they can focus on the assignments best suited to their abilities and give those tasks a “superhuman” amount of attention.
You focus on an end goal.
One of the reasons that supertaskers are able to stay so attentive is because they do everything with an end goal in mind. Alvey, for instance, was able to manage everything from fixing broken cranes to putting out roaring fires because he was focusing on a single long-term goal: putting back together a broken city.
You ace this quiz with ease.
We’re talking about this 40-minute quiz designed by Strayer et al. It’s designed like the neuroscientist’s original study, and it can tell you once and for all whether or not you’re a true supertasker. And once you’ve figured out whether you’re one of the two percent, don’t forget to compare your traits against the 20 Signs You’re a Born Leader.
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