Like many women, I have probably spent the lion’s share of my adult life multitasking. After all, like most, I have had too many tasks and too little time. This addiction to multitasking grew tremendously when I became a mother of small children. Can you imagine breastfeeding your infant, reading your to-do list while waiting in the carpool line for your toddler? I know, crazy, right? Somehow I thought that the art of multitasking was a good thing. I thought that it elevated my productivity by allowing me to crush my goals faster. Uh, no!
Newsflash: Human beings are not computers and contrary to popular belief we suck at multitasking, despite what many will tell you. We have encountered a lot of information in the productivity world here lately that warns us against multitasking. But did you know that multitasking not only sabotages your focus and productivity, new studies found that it actually can damage your brain. Say whaaaaa? When I saw this, I marched myself upstairs to my desktop and turned on my Pomodoro timer to write this post. PERIOD! In other words, I created an environment where distractions and interruptions are minimal and I’m more likely to focus on the task at hand.
Attention Please: Just kidding!!
4 Ways Multitasking May Be Doing More Harm than Good:
- Multitasking Decreases Focus:
Our modern world is becoming more complicated and multifaceted day by day. Now multitasking includes texting, reading and sending emails, social media scrolling, video gaming, online shopping, and having 38 tabs open on our computer at once. Every time we multitask, we train our brains to lose focus and get distracted. After a while, our brains start to crave these distractions as it creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop. According to neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin, the same part of our brain that keeps us focused and on task is the same region that is also easily distracted. That dopamine rush that we get from multitasking can become addictive. Our brain gets rewarded for losing focus while searching for more external stimulation. Just like any other dopamine-addiction loop, it can become hard to break.
- Multitasking Lowers IQ:
No one wants to become dumber. I know I don’t. This one is shocking but true. Studies have shown that multitasking can lower your IQ. One study showed that those who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced severe drops in IQ scores. Comparative to those suffering from severe sleep deprivation. According to a study at the University of London, the drop in IQ points was equivalent to an 8-year-old child. Hmmm
- Multitasking Increases Stress and Anxiety:
As if we need more stress and anxiety in our modern-day lives. Well, needless to say, studies have shown that multitasking increases the brain levels of cortisol. A hormone that is associated with increased stress. As cortisol rises, mental fatigue and anxiety increases and causes us to be in a constant state of overwhelm. Unchecked overwhelm drains our brain of oxygenated glucose and can lead to full-blown burnout.
- Multitasking Can Reduce the Quality of Your Decisions:
When we constantly switch between tasks we are inadvertently making microscopic decisions. As a result, we deplete our limited willpower supply. This overtime causes decision fatigue. Because you’ve opted to make a ton of tiny insignificant decisions, you no longer have the brainpower to make good quality decisions on the more important matters of life. The danger here is that we can end up making really bad decisions on what matters most.
Your brain isn’t meant to handle the onslaught of information that it is bombarded with daily, nor was it created to multitask. To focus better, improve our productivity and protect our brain health, we must take action to stop this vicious cycle of information overload and multitasking.
Are you a card-carrying member of the multitasking club?
If so, are you ready to stop struggling to gain focus and concentration?
Try these corrective measures to slay multitasking and take your focus power back:
- Practice single-tasking. Try using the Pomodoro method while establishing this new habit. Remember you are retraining your brain.
- Schedule your Deep Work around your most productive hours.
- Make a list of 1 to 3 of high priority tasks daily. Once these are done, you will feel productive and free to search the web, scroll social media, etc.
- Create a distraction-free zone in your workplace.
Multitasking may feel amazing at the moment because of that dopamine response in the brain. But remember, it’s cunning. Underneath those feelings of pleasure, lurks an adversary whose agenda is to steal your focus, productivity, and drain your brain energy. Ultimately, it wants to undermine your goals and dreams.
Be well + prosper,