Are you a multitasker? Fess up. Do you do two things at once? Maybe you watch television while checking Facebook on your phone. Or you watch television while folding the clothes. Or you talk on the phone while driving.
You think this habit makes you more productive. It doesn’t.
Facts About Multitasking
Let me provide some facts about multitasking you may not know and that might deter you from doing two things at once in the future.
New studies show that:
- Multitasking kills your performance.
- Multitasking may damage your brain.
- Multitasking lowers your IQ.
That means that when you multitask, you not only harm your performance but make it hard to succeed in the future.
Multitasking Lowers Your Productivity and Performance
According to research conducted at Stanford University, multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. Therefore, multitasking lowers your productivity and performance.
Here’s the truth of the matter: Your brain only can focus on one thing at a time, and it only can perform one task at a time. That explains why when you try to do two things at once, your performance decreases.
So, each time you feel tempted to focus on two things—which is impossible—stop. Focus on one thing and one thing only.
To many people, it seems obvious or common sense that trying to do more than one thing at a time would not produce good results. For those who believe the opposite—that multitasking makes you perform at a higher level, the evidence proves them wrong.
Multitaskers Don’t Multitask Well
For example, people regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information at once can’t pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another. On Those who don’t multitask do these things better than those who regularly multitask.
The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask as well as their belief that doing so helps their performance. Guess what? Heavy multitaskers were worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. They had difficulty organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information. Plus, they were slower at switching from one task to another.
Multitasking Makes You Dumb
If you think your smart…and want to stay smart or get smarter…don’t multitask. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines similar to what they’d expect if the subjects had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.
Plus, IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an eight-year-old child. Ouch.
Multitasking Damages Your Brain
If that’s not enough to keep you focused on one thing, maybe this will convince you to be a solo-tasker: Researchers from the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. High multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.
Neuroscientist Kep Kee Loh, the study’s lead author, explained that “the way we are interacting with the devices might be changing the way we think and these changes might be occurring at the level of brain structure.”
We live in a world that bombards us with information. Tons of things vie for our attention. It’s hard not to feel like we all have Attention Deficit Disorder because we have been trained to jump from one thing to another and to expect something to happen instantaneously. When it doesn’t, we allow our attention to go elsewhere. Before we know it, we are in the midst of three tasks.
I see this in my own life. When a browser window takes too long to open, I click my email. Then I jump back to the browser window. When I click again, I look at my phone and read a text while I wait…all of three seconds.
With my day so filled with activities and responsibilities, I make personal phone calls while driving. I talk to my mother while I cook.
Can you relate?
It’s time to get more present, to be in the moment with one task, one person, one activity. That’s how you increase your performance and productivity.
Break the Multitasking Habit
How do you do change your multitasking ways? Pay attention. Become conscious of the times you focus on more than one thing or try to do more than one thing at a time. For example, look for the times when:
- You are having face-to-face conversation with someone while looking at your cell phone. Put down the cell phone. Focus on the person in front of you.
- You have more than one document open on your computer. Close all but one. Do that job. Then close the document and open another.
- You are watching television and periodically checking your cell phone or iPad, even if it is only during commercials. Put away the phone and iPad. Enjoy the show.
- You are talking on the phone while doing other things. Sit down. Pay attention. Have the conversation. When you finish and hang up the phone, take on the other task.
You can’t be present when your mind is in more than one place at a time. Instead, your attention will be scattered, and your results will be, too.
How often do you multi task, and do you plan to continue? Tell me in a comment below.
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