Serial vs Parallel Processing

by maximusaurus

Ever feel like your brain has too many tabs open at once? And then, like an overheated laptop, it crashes and takes half an hour to reboot? Have you ever considered that maybe, you could be a serial processor?

In computing, serial processing basically refers to performing tasks one at a time, while doing them in parallel means working on multiple tasks simultaneously. Some processors are very fast at doing things serially, others are better at doing them in parallel. People tend to be much the same.

Personally, I take to multitasking like a stegosaurus to figure skating. And that’s okay; I may not be able to juggle five tasks at once, but if tackle them one at a time, I get by just fine.

The challenging part is that we live in a world where parallel processing is the norm. For years I thought I was scatterbrained and lazy because I kept trying to multitask when that wasn’t what my brain is best at. I’d get overwhelmed thinking about all the things I had to get done, and it took me many years to work out that the solution was to break things down into a series of manageable bite-sized chunks.

Many of us on the spectrum are serial processors. We can bring an intense focus to bear on a singular task, and do that one thing brilliantly. We just have to learn to approach things in a way that best harnesses this processing power. A Formula 1 racing car for example is very fast, but you won’t get the best results driving it in peak hour traffic.

So if you’re one of those people who, like me, get stressed out trying to handle multiple tasks at once, try approaching things in series rather than in parallel; separate your workload into small steps, and do them one by one. You might be surprised at how much a difference it makes.