The Myth of Multitasking

One of the biggest myths in corporate America is that multitasking is a good thing. I cannot tell you how many resumes and LinkedIn profiles I have seen that list multitasking as an asset for their job. 

While there may be times when we have no choice but to juggle multiple tasks, the truth is that multitasking actually impacts you negatively and inhibits you from being able to truly focus or perform at your best. It overloads you psychologically, stresses you physically and can have a negative effect on you physiologically.

In this article, we are going to look at different reasons why multitasking doesn’t work and provide you with better solutions to increase your productivity:

1. Stop splitting your attention: When you multitask, you are not giving 100% to anything you are doing. Instead, you are splitting your focus and at best giving 50% to each task. Therefore, you will never perform at your best if you are doing multiple things at once.

Solution: Instead of doing multiple things at once, try performing one task at a time. This should enable you to focus more on this one task. You may even find the task more meaningful, more enjoyable, which in turn will benefit you physiologically, psychologically, and socially.

2. Multitasking inhibits creativity: Some of the greatest ideas tend to come when you least expect them and give yourself space to be creative. When you multitask, you are not leaving enough working memory for your brain to come up with new ideas. You may be able to check things off your to-do list, but at the end of the day, you will be getting in the way of creative moments. 

Solution: Give yourself time throughout your day to step away from the task at hand, daydream, read, go for a walk, make time for inspiration. These moments could lead to creative inspiration or simply revitalize you and help you be more productive when you get back to work. We like to call these moments your RESSET moment :)

3. Multitasking leads to more mistakes: It has been proven that multitasking decreases quality of work because you split your attention as we explained in example one. A Stanford study confirmed this by showing that those who multitask are indeed worse performers, and struggle because they can't filter out irrelevant information, slowing down completion of the cognitive task at hand.

Solution: Even when you focus on one task, you can still get distracted by other stimuli. Try to create a work environment where you decrease distractions. This could mean turning off your phone or email until a specific project is complete, blocking out time on your calendar, or letting coworkers know you cannot talk until a certain time.

4. Multitasking doesn’t actually save you time: The one benefit that many people think they get from multitasking is saving time or finishing tasks faster than usual. But in truth, this is not the case, and actually the opposite happens - when you multitask, you lose time. 

In experiments conducted by Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, Jeffrey Evans, PhD, and David Meyer, PhD, in which young adults switched between different tasks, such as solving math problems or classifying geometric objects, for all tasks, the participants lost time when they had to switch from one task to another. As tasks got more complex, participants lost more time. 

Solution: Stop jumping from one task to another before one task is completed. Focus on the task at hand, see it to completion and then move onto your next task. We would also recommend taking small breaks in between tasks to help you RESSET and stay focused.  

5. Multitasking lowers your ability to concentrate: According to psychiatrist Edward Hallowel, M.D., part of the reason people are becoming less efficient and less productive is that many of us are developing what he calls Attention Deficit Trait (ADT). Unlike Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which tends to be genetic, ADT is brought on when your attention is constantly pulled away from the task at hand by constant and relentless distractions and interruptions to our focus.

Solution: Start to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Research shows that the ongoing practice of mindfulness strengthens our ability to focus and concentrate. This could involve meditating, yoga, mindful walks, and many other solutions.

If you are looking for more tips on how you can start a mindfulness practice, a great place to start is with our RESSET cards. They are designed to teach you individualized ways to slow down, take a RESSET moment and become mindful. Learn more here!

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