Ever feel like you’re walking a tightrope between calm and frenetic activity, juggling crammed work schedules and personal responsibilities? Does it feel like no escape from the blur of constant doing, urgent pace, and lightning speed that pressure you to respond in kind? Have you started to rely on multitasking as an essential tool to get everything done in a culture that expects you to change tires going eighty miles an hour?
Are You a Tortoise or a Hare?
While you might think multitasking is the ticket to more productivity, experts insist that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Studies show that your brain doesn’t complete tasks simultaneously as you might think. The human brain cannot focus on more than one task at a time. Just because you’re fast at switching tasks doesn’t make you better at what you do. Remember Aesop’s fable? The hare moved faster than the tortoise, but the slower, methodical turtle beat him to the finish line.
Here are three reasons why a pattern of doing too many things at once can backfire on your health, happiness, and habitual productiveness:
- Multitasking undermines your ability to focus and produce. University of Michigan researchers say when you bounce between several tasks, such as juggling emails, phone calls, and text messages, you actually force your brain to keep refocusing with each rebound and reduce productivity by up to 40 percent. Quickly switching tasks causes more mistakes and costs time instead of saving it. Studies conclude that multitasking undermines productivity, efficiency, and quality of life by creating several half-baked projects that leave people overwhelmed and stressed out.
- Multitasking fatigues the brain. It can leave you exhausted, depleted of mental energy, and incapable of clear decision making. Stanford University scientists report that heavy multitaskers have more stress because of trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information. In an effort to handle the overload from prolonged multitasking, scientists say your brain rewires, causing fractured thinking and lack of concentration. As a result, multitaskers take longer to switch among tasks and are less efficient at juggling problems than non-multitaskers.
- Multitasking deprives you of the present moment. It prevents you from being fully present in important relationships and taking care of yourself. Studies show that present moment awareness and mindfulness are the keys to clarity, creativity, and calm. Accomplishing just one task at a time leads to less stress, raises your focusing ability, and creates greater efficiency and productivity.
6 Tips to Prevent Multitasking from Frying Your Brain
Most of us perform more than one activity simultaneously at least once in a while. But we don’t have to develop a pattern of letting multitasking fatigue our brain. Here are some tips to put the brakes on the frequency of multitasking and remain efficient, productive, and stress free:
1. Avoid letting your email ping interrupt you during a task. You’ll keep your stress level down.
2. Engage in fewer tasks at one time and slow down your pace. You’ll be more efficient.
3. Prioritize the most important tasks and finish one big project before revving up another one. You won’t get overwhelmed.
4. Keep your mind from jumping to another task by writing it down so you won’t forget it and return to it after you complete your current project. You’ll have better focus and concentration.
5. Prevent your mind from straying and stay in the present moment as much as possible. Come up for air and notice what’s around you once in a while and breathe. You’ll be less stressed, happier, and more productive in the long run.
6. Avoid overworking your brain so you have mental energy left over for other activities besides work. Your brain needs restorative rest just like your body does when you’re tired. Take breaks with such activities as brisk exercise, yoga, meditation, power napping, or relaxing in nature. You’ll have more mental clarity and energy to get tasks completed in a timely manner.
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