Mentally Incapable of doing more than one thing at a Time!


Hi Guys,

Well, I'm getting myself in a tizz. I seem to be completely incapable at doing more than one thing concurrently. I have a couple of experiments running at the moment (am in Cognitive Psychology so it with people) that are a pilot study for a study I will conducting with children in schools.

I'm getting into a panic because I'm running out of time, as I need this to be sorted out soon as schools break up for summer fairly shortly, so I need to get in there and get testing.

I'm really nervous about going into the schools (as of course I've spent the last three years behind this computer), and really worried about the data - what if I don't find anything? I'm starting my final year in Sept and worried that I'm going to have no results.

But the nerves are another thing. The real issue seems to be that I can't mentally do two things at once. I'm supposed to be writing up my second chapter, but I'm struggling as I find I can't read or write if I have something else going on (i.e., running exps, which is stupid because I have about one an hour). I find it really hard to settle into it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I feel like I have a lot going on in my mind, and I feel incapable of doing anything unless I can do one thing at a time, which is no good as I need to be able to work on several things concurrently.

Is this just something you guys are able to do? Any advice?




hey Bobby,  I am exactly the same. i cannot deal with more than one thing at a time, i just can't function that way.  i wish i could. My life would be so much better if i could.  I would be a much better scientist if i could. I've come to accept that i am just not like that.

one way to overcome your weaknesses is to capitalise on your strengths.  In other words, if you can't do more than one thing at a time, you're better off using it to your advantage rather than fighting it. i like to write things down (thoughts, feeling, worries etc) which often helps me put things in perspective and prioritize.  That way, if i am doing one thing at a time, i know it is the most effective thing i could be doing at that time. At least that's the theory, life tends to be a bit more complicated than that! but it helps me feel better about myself knowing I'm playing to my strengths and doing things 'my way' - that's what a PhD is about.

Try not to see it as a disadvantage.  It's more a case of you having learnt something about yourself. Hope this helps a little.


Hi Bobby,

I know how you feel: I have 2 possible suggestions for the 2 problems as I see them.

1. Getting in a tizz because there's just too much to do at once.
What I find helps is to get a blank piece of A4 & a pen & draw a spider diagram (I usually put the words "what's in my head" or something like that in the circle in the middle). Empty your head of everything you have going on: with your studies, even your out-of-work commitments.
Once you have it down on paper, number each task: 1 being the most important/pressing thing you have to do. Next, it's a case of being realistic with how long you think it'll take you to complete each task & drawing up a plan of the day/s ahead. You could take some time to do this first thing in the morning or last thing before you go home, so you have a clearer idea of what it is that you need to focus on.

I know you're saying that you have to focus on mor than one thing at a time, but surely there are some things more pressing/important than others? & from your own admission, you find juggling tasks a problem: I would even go so far as to say then that this is not a talent you necessarily need. It may just be a question of working that little bit longer into the day (i.e. when your experiments aren't running) to make more headway on writing up.

2. I also have a fear of getting in there and doing my practical work at times, & all I can suggest is that you just have to bite the bullet: get in there, make appointments/meetings with people that can help you (i.e. school contacts) & work towards that - from experience I know that if you have to 'deliver' to an actual person then it makes you all the more motivated to get it done for the scheduled time. It won't be easy, but once you give it a go, you'll be so relieved. & with respect to your results, don't forget the mantra of the PhD: "No results is a still a result!" Just go get them!!


Hey guys,

Thanks for replying. I think I might try the writing a spider diagram in the evening - its getting to the point where I stay in the lab til about 8/9pm, because I'm getting so worked up about things. It gets to the point that I'm stressing so much about getting things done that I end up getting nothing done. Its no good. I think I am going to try and set myself some time to work on each task exclusively (say, reading for half an hour). My problem tends to be that I can't concentrate because I'm worried about the other things I have to do!xx