How many emails do you read every day? Do you feel inclined to read your messages or new Facebook posts the moment your phone beeps, no matter what you’re doing at the moment? Do you talk on the phone while doing something else at the same time? Then you should know that multitasking isn’t at great as you might think, even though it was recently praised by probably every manager out there.
Psychologists and time-management experts agree that multitasking is the incorrect name for trying to do several jobs at once, thinking that this will make us more productive. The real name for this is actually task-switching. However, our brains aren’t made to handle several activities at the same time. What does multitasking actually cause?
We work slower than we normally would
Many people think that multitasking will help them save time but this just isn’t true. It will actually take you more time to constantly change between activities, rather than focusing on each activity individually and fully. When we’re trying to multitask, our brains are constantly trying to evaluate which of the tasks has a higher priority. This creates a lot of pressure. As the number of tasks increases, our brains usually decide that the best solution is to do only a bit of each task.
We can’t focus on our main goals
Because of the many tasks we take upon ourselves, we often only react to a problem that appears on the surface rather than trying to dig deeper and find what caused the problem in the first place. We often put off the hardest tasks for later because we fear the long duration or the task or how hard it is.
We make mistakes
Did you know that by jumping from one task to another, you can decrease your productivity by as much as 40%? In addition, your brain is overloaded, which means that you can’t focus properly on any of those tasks and make mistakes, especially when dealing with tasks that require critical thinking. You’re more likely to have to return to those tasks again to fix your mistakes.
We live under constant stress
When your focus is divided between several different activities, you’re in a constant ‘state of alert’. You don’t finish the tasks at hand and instead just push them onward because you’re already focusing on something else. This will never bring you the satisfaction of a well-done job even though you were busy all day.
We miss details
People who often multitask also seem to miss very obvious things because they view the world selectively. An experiment carried out by the Washington University showed that 75% of students who were on the phone while walking through the school grounds didn’t notice that there’s a clown on a unicycle going around. They saw their environment, but their brains couldn’t process what they saw for their short-term memory because it was already busy.
We can’t decide
Multitasking overloads the cognitive functions of our brains, which decreases their performances. Many things get ‘lost’ among the other information in our heads, which makes us unable to decide which of all those things are important.
We tend to overeat
Sounds unbelievable? It might sound strange but several studies showed that you shouldn’t eat and do other activities such as watching TV or checking your e-mails. Your brain gets too busy so it can’t concentrate on eating and give you the signal that you’re full.
We lack creative thinking
Multitasking requires a lot of so-called ‘working memory’ or, to put it simply, a lot of storage space. If your ‘hard-disk’ gets full, your brain won’t have enough space to process information and generate ideas. People who consider themselves experts at multitasking have huge problems with creative thinking and imagination.
What can help?
- Focus on one activity until you finish it.
- Use the 80/20 rule. Put 80% of your energy into 20% of the most important tasks.
- Always focus on important tasks.
- Do the same types of activities together. For example, read emails at one time or pay all your bills at once.
- If you’re working on something that requires a lot of time, turn off your phone and close your e-mail page. Create a space for your thoughts.
- Give yourself time to sleep and to just do nothing. It helps clear your head so you’ll never feel like you can’t see the forest because of the trees.