Our magnificent brains have a restricted capacity for devoting attention. When you multitask, you are not training yourself to manage more activities, but in fact, you are simply instructing your brain to take on more, with limited individual attention. It isn’t an act of increased productivity. It is distributing your focus over multiple activities simultaneously. You are more apt to forget, lose, or miss important details. You may think you can function on full throttle with a hoard of tasks, but it comes at a great loss. Consider it mental overload.
It is more important to be present and engaged with whatever you are doing versus being in the overtasked coma state. Your brain switches back and forth, stopping and starting whenever you choose to multi-task. Diverting your focus increases inefficiency, no matter how badly you convince yourself that you are the master. You’re not and it’s detrimental to your results.
While you can manage automatic, higher-level task switching like walking and talking at the same time, crafting an email, sending a text while Zooming a co-worker produces less than satisfactory results. Writing and speech-related tasks compete for attention in the prefrontal cortex. Some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40% and the number of errors can increase by 50%.
In an NPR interview, Stanford University professor Clifford Nass said ‘heavy multitaskers” have trouble tuning out distractions and switching tasks compared with those who multitask less The study revealed that even when chronic multitaskers were focusing on a single task, their brains were less effective and efficient.’
If you try to multitask in the classic sense of doing two things at once, what you end up doing is quasi-tasking. It’s like being with children. You have to give it your full attention for however much time you have, and then you have to give something else your full attention. Joss Whedon
Instead of consistently jumping around from project to project, create focused time blocks, turn off notifications, and tune out distractions.
Steps to STOP Multi-Tasking
- Set priorities
- Figure out exactly when you are most productive
- Reduce or eliminate distractions
- Turn off notifications
- Sign out of social media
- Time block your day
- Be present
- Finish what you start
- Don’t be afraid to say no
- Take breaks
- Be mindful of your habits and adjust accordingly
Take a step back and think of all of the times where you have been engaged in 2-5 activities at once.
Seems a little outlandish, right?
What were you able to:
What will you do to minimize multi-tasking and commit your focus to a single project?