We have all multitasked at one time or another. Today, we think of multitasking as juggling different, non-related tasks at one time. However scientists actually refer to this as switch tasking because it involves switching between multiple tasks that aren’t directly related to one outcome.
Despite what many of us probably think, multitasking in the form of switch tasking does not make us better at our jobs. In fact, some would probably argue that there is no such thing as effective multitasking.
The scientific meaning of multitasking is when we perform multiple tasks at once that are all related to a common goal. For instance, when we drive we are multitasking because we are performing different actions, such as braking & signaling, that all relate to the common goal of driving effectively.
However, if we were to be driving and texting, that would be switch-tasking because the two actions do not actually relate to each other. In fact, trying to drive and text at the same time can lead to a car crash, which means neither action gets carried effectively.
Multitasking: Good or Bad?
We can use this car analogy to talk about the effects of switch tasking, which you and I know as today’s multitasking. Contrary to popular belief, being a multi-tasker usually does not make us more efficient, unfortunately it tends to have the opposite effect and actually reduces our cognitive abilities.
As much as we would like to think that our brains are capable of handling many things at once, this is simply not the case. When we try to do more than one thing at a time we are not expanding our brain’s capabilities, instead we are forcing our minds to use up more mental output by trying to do too many tasks. This makes us give less attention to each task so that we are less likely to be able to do it effectively. Instead of multi-tasking it is a better idea to try and put our minds towards finishing one task well.
What Happens To Our Brains When We Multitask
We may be teaching bad habits to our brains when we are multitasking at work. A lot of the time, we multi-task and try to complete many small tasks at once in order to put off doing a bigger task. When we complete one of these small tasks, our brains generate a small amount of dopamine, which is also known as the reward hormone.
If this process repeats then we can get caught in that dopamine cycle of instant gratification. This can make us feel like we are accomplishing a lot but in reality, we are not ever getting to the more important tasks and goals.
In some studies, multitasking was linked to an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. Having excess cortisol can leave us mentally exhausted or it can even lead to dangerous health conditions, such as high blood pressure.
Many experts believe that instead of trying to finish several inconsequential tasks at virtually the same time, it is better to attempt to focus on completing one big task.
What Multitasking Does To Our IQ
In today’s fast-paced world, it may be hard to believe that multitasking is not a positive thing, but the proof is in the research. One recent study found that multitasking can actually have the ability to lower your IQ, which stands for intelligent quotient. Participants who multitasked during the study experienced a decline in IQ. In fact, these multi-taskers’ IQs were similar to that of someone who completely missed a night of sleep. For some of the adult men in the study, multitasking caused their IQs to drop as much as 15 points, which brought their cognitive perception to a similar level as an 8-year-old child.
Some scientists believe that the negative effects of multitasking may be more than temporary. In the past decade, researchers have uncovered a possible link between cognitive damage and multitasking. Their evidence showed that the amount of time that someone spent on multiple devices at once (such as doing homework on the computer while watching tv) probably had a diminishing effect on the region of the brain that helps us feel empathy and have control over our emotions.
How To Stop Multitasking
We may never be able to completely stop multitasking but there are things that we can do to reduce the amount of time we spend on it. Texting has proven to be the main reason that we multitask, this is closely followed by emailing. Some examples of multitasking would be when we stop working on a project to check our email or we stop studying in order to reply to a text.
Receiving constant text alerts or notifications from apps is one of the most common distractions today and a big culprit of multitasking. When we switch from whatever task we are doing to quickly check our phones or emails, we ruin our focus. In fact, one study found that employees spend an average of 28% of their work week just on checking their inboxes.
One easy way that we can cut down on these distractions and our constant multitasking is by turning the notifications off of our phones while we are trying to work. It can also be a good idea to go through our apps and consider whether we can turn some notifications off more permanently.
While it probably is not very practical to turn off our text alerts or stay on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode forever, we could consider turning off certain social media notifications that do not actually have a direct impact on our life.
Some people cut down on multi-tasking by setting blocks of time aside throughout the day to check email and social media instead of letting themselves check randomly throughout the day.
How To Effectively Multitask
There will probably be times when we are so busy that we have to do a little bit of multitasking. If this happens, here are some of the things that you can do to be a more effective multitasker.
- Rank your tasks. Decide which tasks are urgent and which are less important so that you can prioritize completing certain tasks first.
- Try to improve your focus. Eliminating distractions and trying meditation are two things that could help you hone in on tasks more effectively.
- Group your tasks. Working simultaneously on tasks that are related tends to have better effects than working simultaneously on completely different tasks.
- Plan ahead. Making a schedule at the beginning of your week can help make the most of your time.
By Admin –