Updated: Jun 1
Being on a team that is almost entirely female, we ladies have long been carrying around the trophy (or burden) of being expert multitaskers. Managing jobs, kids, and households earned us this lofty title; however, recent studies revealed... Women are not better at multitasking than men!
Now that this playing field has been leveled... Multitasking is a bad idea! It's not as helpful as we think it is, though it is a really easy habit to fall into. Points to ponder...
Less overall effectivity:
If you argue that you are getting things done while multitasking, you are probably not getting it done to the best of your ability. Multitasking is probably the worst way to get through multiple things, contrary to human psychology. A multitasker is likely to make 50% more errors compared to someone who does not multitask.
Slows down your brain:
It’s as if having tabs open on your browser, and everything is stuck! The reason is that your brain is trying to manage several tasks at once and several concurring thoughts are happening in the background... even if you are trying to focus on a single task. A study revealed that the brains of people who routinely multitask work less effectively than those who don’t. Now, tasks like folding laundry while watching TV are doable and perhaps mildly distracting and could take you longer to do. But when it comes to tasks that require safety, procedure, and quality... even the small toggles can be distracting to a large extent. It’s estimated that a multitasker takes 50% longer to accomplish a single task.
Impedes creative thoughts:
Creativity requires one to wander down a path of thought far enough to be inspired and generate new ideas and thoughts. If this process is interrupted by constant toggling, your journey towards creativity is reset many times over. You may need to backtrack and grapple with ideas to get them flowing again. You need to expend considerable mental energy to get you into the ‘zone’ again. It also impedes your attention to detail.
More brain science:
The brain is managed by what we call the ‘Executive Function’ (EF). These functions control and manage the cognitive process. The EF determines the sequence of how, when, and order of how tasks are performed. This is done in two stages:
80% of victories in team sports are generated by 20% of the players in the team
Goal Shifting ~ Deciding on doing one thing instead of the other
Role Activation ~ Changing the order and rules of processing from one task to the other
To be honest, it only takes a few tenths of a second to complete this; but this tends to add up if you are constantly swapping around tasks. So, in essence, your processing speed drops.
The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) paired with our adaptive brains (thanks to evolution) only serves as a distraction, and the onslaught of new information only serves to create a sensory overload.
Hopefully, (and) studies are yet to confirm that... the damage to the brain from multitasking is long-lasting. However, if you reduce multitasking, you will notice a spike in your productivity.
Shocking insight from the World Economic Forum:
The cost of this kind of multitasking adds up. Interruptions cost the United States an estimated US $650 billion a year.
Gloria Mark, a computer scientist at the University of California in Irvine, estimates that it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to task! Some people in the study never did this.
In the real world when you get a phone call, you have to take the call. You may be distracted by other things. It might take you 68 seconds to remember what you were doing.
The University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they'd expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.
Things to try:
Reducing the number of tasks you juggle to just two at any given time.
Apply the 20-minute rule instead of constantly switching between tasks. Allocate at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted focus time before switching to another task.
Kill Distractions ~ Don't try to 'monotask' with just sheer willpower. Fighting FOMO is challenging, and the thirst for new information can be overwhelming. Therefore, eliminate your distractions for that designated time block.
Hand over essential, repetitive tasks and focus on the main income-generating tasks. It may be time to look at hiring a second set of trusted hands to take on the tasks that constantly niggle but don’t yield outcomes. Here is a great read on how to cull your To-Do List and a great event on how to delegate effectively.
Overcome that urge to multitask! Don’t get stuck in a rationalizing fest where you are bad at ignoring distractions and cover-up using the ‘multitask card’ to claim better productivity. Improve your ability to focus and ‘monotask’ instead.
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Written by Tatum De Souza