We may have more than ever on our plates at work, and it can be tempting to try to knock several things out at the same time. And let’s be honest — sometimes that technique gets the job(s) done.
If multitasking has become a constant in your work day, however, you may want to read on. New research shows that multitasking not only doesn’t help us, it can do quite a bit to hurt.
Here are some of the most important reasons that multitasking is bad for you. A quick tip: Don’t try to do anything else while you read them.
1. Multitasking makes us less efficient.
While this may seemcounter-intuitive(why else would you multitask, right?), multitasking actually slows us down rather than getting more done in less time. This is because our brains are unable to focus on more than one thing at once, so when we think we are, what we’re actually doing is rapidly jumping back and forth between topics.
That shift in attention may be quick, but the lost time adds up, as does the time it takes to focus in on one task, and then the other, rather than actually working on that task.
2. Multitasking means less info gets through to us.
Brain scans show that when we try to multitask, we end up focusing on certain aspects of each task, but not getting other aspects. Think about texting while driving: You may glance up to make sure your lane position is OK or that there is no immediate danger ahead, but may be ignoring your mirrors or other cues that you’re about to get into an accident.
3. Multitasking makes it harder to learn new things.
The brain processes information differently when we try to do more than one thing at once. This difference makes information “learned” while multitasking very hard to retrieve — meaning we’re not really learning much (or being very productive) at all.
4. Multitasking decreases performance.
We may think we’re doing multiple tasks to the best of our ability, but when we try to do more than one thing at once, we just don’t perform as well. When you stop to think about how your performance improves when you are able to truly focus on a single task, it makes perfect sense that our performance diminishes with each additional task we take on at once.
In fact, a recent study showed that multitasking can knock 10 points off your IQ!
5. Multitasking increases stress hormones and adrenaline.
If you’re looking to decrease your stress, you can do so easily by decreasing the amount you do at one time. Chronic multitasking means these levels are chronically elevated, which is disastrous for our health.
6. Multitasking makes us angry and impulsive.
The chemical changes in the brain mentioned above can have emotional consequences as well, such as making us feel angry all the time. They also weaken our self-control, leading to all sorts of impulsive behavior.
7. Multitasking shortens our attention spans.
The more time we spend multitasking, the harder we find it over time to focus on just one thing. Is it any surprise so many people these days are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder?
With so many benefits to sustaining focus on one thing at a time, it’s hard to understand why multitasking is still so popular. Work on improving your focus on just one task at a time, and you’ll be shocked at how efficiently you fly through the workday — and how much better you feel at the end.
What do you think of multitasking? Share your thoughts below!
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Amen! You are so right. I also find that multi-tasking can affect how you are perceived by others. You can come across as disinterested, detached, and self-absorbed. Give one task your full attention at a time, and you’ll see your productivity rise. This means turning off your email while you’re working on something else! Schedule a break to specifically check email.
I think we need to reclaim and redefine multitasking for this century. What multitasking should mean is the ability to manage multiple important priorities concurrently, not do a dozen things at the same exact moment. It’s like the wrong definition got associated with multitasking just as it became a hot buzzword for cover letters.
In my view, multitasking is the opposite of simplicity. The more we do things simultaneously, the more complex the situation becomes, the less effective we are.
A good way I found to avoid multitasking is 1. to use todo list 2. to go slowwww.
By using a todo list, we know where we are going and by going slowww, we need to concentrate and focus on the task at hand.
You’ll see, it’s funnier than it appears!
“Simplicity is the last step of art.”
“The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.”
There’s a great article on multitasking vs monotasking from a counsellor here: http://www.paulthecounsellor.com.au/multitasking/
They have a little how-to guide on how to start monotasking, too