Calling All Multitaskers!
Multitasking. I’m guilty of it, and I’m sure you have been too. I even feel guilty saying “guilty” because for so long, I thought multitasking = being productive! I was so wrong.
THE BRAIN IS NOT MADE TO MULTITASK.
Studies have shown that multitasking, that is, switching between multiple tasks at once, overloads your brain which can lead to chronic stress and depression, cause social anxiety, and even lower your IQ and damage your brain permanently! Try to focus on reading these factoids without distraction:
- Just because you do it all the time, doesn’t mean you’re good at it. It’s actually the opposite. Multitasking lowers your cognitive abilities, meaning you’ll perform poorly even when you’re monotasking. “People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.” Check out work by Clifford Nass if you’re interested in learning more.
- You’re lowering the quality of your work. Multitasking initiates cortisol production, the stress hormone, making it even harder for you to think clearly. It reduces the rate at which you work, because with so much going on, you’re not working as efficiently, leaving more room for error.
- You’re creating bad brain habits. Do you ever multitask your way through the day, then come 5pm you feel like you’ve completed nothing at all? Switching between tasks confuses the brain. Each time you complete even a teeny task, like sending an email, your brain releases its reward hormone dopamine. “Our brains love that dopamine, and so we’re encouraged to keep switching between small mini-tasks that give us instant gratification. This creates a dangerous feedback loop that makes us feel like we’re accomplishing a ton, when we’re really not doing much at all…” Which, in turn, can lead to other problems such as chronic stress. (I’m stressed just thinking about the fact that there’s such a thing as chronic stress.)
- You’re better off smoking. Well, in a sense. Studies have found that multitasking with electronic media results in a lower IQ than losing a night’s sleep OR smoking marijuana! Wow.
The good news for you multitask-aholics is that there are many ways to improve your focus. I recently started a simple introductory chunking method when working on tasks:
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and focus WITH NO DISTRACTION (yes, that means NO phone, email, Facebook, or anything that demands attention)
- Take a break for 2 minutes – get up, stretch, move around, grab a drink
Try to repeat the cycle for at least an hour, and be sure to break for 10-15 minutes when you’re finished. It’s amazing what you can get done when you seriously focus on focusing!