It’s like texting, talking, monitoring your GPS, sipping your hot coffee and attempting to change lanes while you’re driving – something will go wrong because nothing has your full attention.
Studies have shown that doing several things at once causes our brain to create the illusion that makes us think we’re getting more done. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task.
In other words, our brains have to jump back and forth, rapidly shifting from one task to another.
According to Professor Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the real problem occurs when we try to perform similar tasks at the same time – such as writing an email and talking on the phone – as they compete to use the same part of the brain, which then causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity and our productivity goes down by as much as 40%.
The same study also found multitasking has a negative physical effect, prompting the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. Studies by Gloria Mark, an ‘interruption scientist’ at the University of California, show that when people are frequently diverted from one task to another, they work faster, but produce less. After 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people report significantly higher stress levels, frustration, workload, effort and pressure.
The obvious reason to focus on one task at a time is for efficiency, sanity and society. But if you insist on multi-tasking, at least keep these two tips in mind:
- DON’T do it in the afternoon. That’s when the multi-tasking brain generally struggles the most.
- MEDITATE. Research shows meditation makes brains more effective at paying attention.
Now go get connected!