I thought of the word 'multi-tasker' but is there a better word which can express focussing on multiple tasks with equal efficiency? For instance, it is said that Leonardo Da Vinci, a polymath, was able to write and draw at the same time.

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    I believe "polymath" simply refers to a Renaissance man, or someone who knows a lot about a variety of subjects, not necessarily a "multi-tasker.":) – kalaracey Jan 20 '11 at 19:24
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    Multipotent and versatile come to mind, but none of them has the connotation of "at the same time". – RegDwigнt Jan 20 '11 at 19:46
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    I've never really believed that there was such a person--one who can multi-task with equal efficiency--though I have no doubt there are a lot of people who think they can. – bikeboy389 Jan 20 '11 at 20:31
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    @Martha - it's the latter option. Drawing with one hand while writing with the other. – Dusty Jan 20 '11 at 20:41
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    @bikeboy389 I'll have you know that I can breathe and surf the internet simultaneously without losing any efficiency. In fact, I would go so far as to say breathing actually improves my surfing ability longterm. I can even bite my nails without thinking about it! :p – kitukwfyer Jan 20 '11 at 22:23

There must be a word, however it doesn't make sense. A person, as many studies and research suggest, is only capable to concentrate on one task at a time.

I found some interesting information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_multitasking

  • But rapid switching is probably is what we call 'multi-tasking' when referring to people. – jbelacqua Mar 28 '11 at 22:30
  • As per the definition of "concentrate" I guess ;-) – Alain Pannetier Φ Mar 28 '11 at 22:30
  • @jgbelacqua: And computers... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheduling_%28computing%29 – Charles Jun 16 '11 at 16:05
  • A plate juggler can easily keep multiple separate plates spinning in the air at the same time. Is this multitasking? I think most people would say yes. You could argue that the entire process of spinning all the plates is a single task, so she's not multitasking, but you could also argue that each plate is a separate task. You could even argue that each eye, each finger, each muscle is performing a separate tasks, but that's getting silly. – barbecue Nov 24 '14 at 3:13

Multi-tasker is probably the most widely recognized English phrase for this. Someone able to do remarkable feats of intellect or creativity, like Leonardo writing and drawing at the same time, is often called a prodigy. That doesn't necessarily imply doing multiple things at once, but it's the sort of thing that a prodigy might be able to do.


"Multi-tasker" is probably the most recognized descriptor. But in reality, one is time slicing and diverting attention from one task to another in bursts. It's perhaps noteworthy that a study of college students found that most were overall less effective when "multi-tasking" than when they focused their attention for longer blocks of time. Unfortunately, the students also underestimated the detrimental effect of shifting focus too often.

It actually makes some rational sense because the older pejorative descriptor of attempting this used to known as "scatterbrained!"

  • This is the same answer as one given only a few hours ago. – Mitch Nov 24 '14 at 13:18