Multitasking: A Gift Or A Cause For Disaster?

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Multitasking has become such a regular part of our lives that most of us believe we do it well—and few imagine it could actually be dangerous. — Guy Winch Ph.D.

Marie, a mother of two who works as a hotel receptionist by day and takes business administration classes at night, believes she’s a master multitasker. “I have to or I won’t survive!” she laughingly said. She admitted that it was hard the first time but things got easier once she learned what she called “the ways of the trade”.

“There are times that I have to do a lot of things at once and the adrenaline just rushes out of me I feel like superwoman or something. At the end of the day, I’m able to finish all of them exceptionally well and I feel accomplished. If others go climb mountains and jump from planes for their adrenaline high, this, multitasking, is my adrenaline high,” she lengthily explained.

However, no matter what Marie or other multitaskers say, experts beg to differ. Multitasking is a disaster, they say. And they back this claim through science.

Multitasking Divides Instead Of Multiplying

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The most basic definition of multitasking is doing two or more tasks right at the same time. However, one psychologist says that isn’t true.

“When people multitask, they think they’re doing different things simultaneously but that’s not it. Multitasking is switching our attention from one task to another in a rapid way, and this is why it’s a recipe for disaster,” she said.

She went on to explain that our brains aren’t wired to take on a lot of tasks all at the same time. Our mind is wired to focus on a limited number of things to really do them well and when we multitask, we are stressing it out. Stress means our cortisol levels increase which then has a negative impact on our capacity to think. As a matter of fact, one study revealed that multitasking decreases our IQ levels by 10 points!

Research has demonstrated multitasking can cause impairments during certain cognitive tasks involving task switching, selective attention and working memory, both in the laboratory and in real-life situations. This type of cognitive impairment may be due to the fact that multitaskers tend to pay attention to various sources of information available in their environment, without sufficient focus on the information most relevant to the task at hand. — Rick Nauert PhD

And There’s More!

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People multitask to save time but various scientific studies say otherwise. For one, a study specifically studying the connection between multitasking and productivity found that doing two tasks at the same time takes far longer than doing these same two at different times. Based on the gathered data, that same undertaking concluded that multitasking reduced productivity by as much as 40%.

To one college instructor, this is very evident.

“When I allowed smartphones and laptops’ use during some of our lecture classes, I noticed that the performance of my students decreased,” she said.

But All’s Not Lost

Experts, however, agree that about 2.5% of the population is composed of super multitaskers.

“They are the kind of individuals who are really awesome at tasks time-sharing. If you’re one of them, good for you,” the psychologist said.

“But for the 97% who are not, it’s better to focus on one thing at a time. We can be more productive that way,” she added.

Goal shifting consists of deciding to focus on another task than the one you are currently focused on. Rule activation consists of turning off the “rules” for one task and turning on the “rules” for another. — John A Call Ph.D., J.D., A.

To get things done smoothly, she shared these tips:

  • Know your capabilities and your limitations. In doing so, you can deduce how much time you are going to spend completing certain tasks.
  • If the task you’re doing needs quality, then, meet that need. There are some undertakings where quality is more important than quantity.
  • Estimate the time you need to put in for your daily tasks.You can be able to budget your time accordingly this way.
  • Divide your tasks into sections. Sectioning allows for more control over whatever goal you have for each undertaking.
  • And lastly, take a BREATHER after every accomplished work.

 

The practice of multitasking is rampant in our society – may that be at our homes, at our workplaces, it’s even present during our R and R! But now that you know its adverse effects to your mental health, I hope you put off doing it.