The benefits of the Digital Age don’t come without a cost. It’s becoming increasingly harder to leave our work behind, thanks to cellphones that act like portable PCs. We appear to be expected to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at times.
When was the last time you concentrated only on one task? Multitasking is a common way for most of us to fulfill these demands.
Many of us believe that multitasking allows us to do more. I’ll show you how to get more done in less time in this article.
Multitasking, it turns out, may not be the solution.
1. Is it Humanly Possible To Multitask?
Multitasking is not something a human being can or should accomplish since our brains give us a finite amount of resources, and it is up to us to put those resources to the best use possible.
If you ask me if multitasking is feasible, I’ll tell you that it is, but not in the sense that most people think of it. Multitasking, in my opinion, is taking care of multiple tasks sequentially rather than simultaneously.
For example, if I were given four distinct projects to complete, I would first try to determine which one I am most comfortable with. Next, think about how the project will affect your work life and whether it’s something that can be accommodated.
So yes, human beings can possess the ability to multitask but only if they apply it in the right sense.
Is Multitasking a Myth?
The word “multitasking” was coined to describe how computer microprocessors operate. People, on the other hand, are unable to multitask.
Many people believe they are outstanding multi-taskers despite their incapacity to perform two jobs at the same time.
You can certainly think of a few occasions when you have to do numerous things at once. Perhaps you talk on the phone while cooking or answer emails while driving.
Consider how much attention each of these chores demands. At least one of the two jobs in question is likely to be simple enough to be completed on autopilot.
We’re good at doing two easy activities at once, but what if you’re trying to do two complex tasks at the same time? Is it possible to work on your presentation while watching a movie?
While it may be entertaining to try to work while watching TV, you may unintentionally make your work more difficult and time-consuming.
Your Brain on Multitasking
Multitasking is not in your brain’s design. It will switch from task to task to compensate. Your attention shifts to whatever task appears to be more pressing. The other task fades into the background until you realize you’ve been ignoring it for some time.
When you bounce back and forth like this, a part of your brain called Brodmann’s Area 10 becomes active.
This area governs your capacity to shift focus and is located in the frontopolar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain. People who believe they are great multitaskers are actually putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to use.
But I’m good at multitasking!
You have the ability to take in information with your eyes while simultaneously completing other tasks. Using your vision is the only thing you can fully accomplish while doing something else, according to science.
You’re serial tasking for everything else. This constant refocusing can be taxing, and it inhibits us from giving our task the emphasis it deserves.
Consider how much longer it takes to complete a task when you have to remind yourself to stay focused.
2. Is Multitasking Failing You?
Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’s why:
Multitasking Wastes Your Time
When you interrupt yourself, you waste time.
When people transition between tasks, they waste an average of 2.1 hours per day getting back on track.
In fact, some studies claim that multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a big drop in productivity. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive when you’re under anesthesia, would you?
Multitasking Makes You Dumber
A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.
You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.
Multitasking Is an Emotional Response.
There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.
Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?
Multitasking Will Wear You Out
When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burnout.
We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.
3. Can You Really Successfully Multitask?
Although multitasking might be bad for your productivity, there is a secondary definition the word holds that can very well be of use in your daily life. In this definition, multitasking does not mean working on multiple tasks at the same time but rather,
“managing the many tasks you have at hand in an effective manner.”
This is the key to effective multitasking, which is the process of prioritizing critical tasks based on your ability to do them. If all you’re doing is listing down what has to be done, creating a to-do list is simple.
However, knowing what needs to be done when and why one work should be completed before the other is equally vital. Not only will this boost your productivity, but it will also help you to multitask more efficiently.
In the words of the renowned Gary Keller,
“Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.”
4. Change Your Existing Multitasking Habit
After a while, switching back and forth between tasks becomes second nature. This is due to the fact that Broadmann’s Area 10 improves at serial tasking with time.
This serial tasking behavior can quickly become a habit, in addition to modifying how the brain works.
You must first realize that you need to change, just as you must with any other poor habit. Fortunately, there are a few basic things you can take to acclimatize to a productive monotasking lifestyle:
1. Consciously Change Gears
Instead of attempting to complete two activities at the same time, consider creating a system to remind you to switch your focus. Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut aboard the Mir space station, found this method to be effective.
Every day, as an astronaut, he had a lot on his plate. On a few watches, he set alarms for himself. He knew it was time to switch chores when a certain watch beeped.
This allowed him to be completely focused on what he was doing at any given time.
This method works because the alert acted as a reminder of what was about to happen. Linenger’s intuition about establishing reminders is consistent with University College London’s Paul Burgess’ studies on the subject.
2. Manage Multiple Tasks Without Multitasking
Raj Dash of Performancing.com has devised a clever method for juggling many projects without multitasking. Before moving on to other tasks, he recommends spending 15 minutes getting to know a new project.
Later, come back to the project and spend around thirty minutes researching and brainstorming.
Allow a few days to pass before completing the project at hand. While you were working on other projects, your brain was still solving problems in the background.
This strategy works because it allows us to work on multiple projects at the same time without having to fight for your attention.
3. Set Aside Distractions
The open tabs on your computer, your smartphone, and your mailbox are all open invites to be distracted. Set aside time each day to turn off your notifications, dismiss your inbox, and delete unwanted tabs from your desktop.
You can’t allow anything else to occupy your mental space if you want to concentrate.
Emails are particularly intrusive because they frequently convey an unnecessarily high feeling of urgency. Some workplace cultures place a premium on timely reactions to these communications, but we can’t approach every scenario as if it were an emergency.
To avoid compulsive checking, set aside time during the day to check and respond to emails.
4. Take Care of Yourself
We typically blame electronics for distracting us from our work, but our physical bodies can also compel us into serial tasking.
If you’re trying to work while hungry, your focus will alternate between hunger and work until you take care of your physical requirements.
Before you sit down for an uninterrupted period of work, try to take all of your bio-breaks.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking care of your overall health. Distractions can be avoided by getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness, and scheduling regular breaks into your day.
Related: How to Organize Your Life Right Now
5. Make Technology Your Ally
Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.
Apps like Forest turn to stay focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.
Multitasking isn’t the way to go if you want to be productive. It’s considerably preferable to set aside time to focus on each task rather than attempting to complete them all at once.
Make use of the approaches given above and expect to be more productive and less tired as a result.