I don’t know about you, but I always used to pride myself on my ability to multitask.
Look at me sailing through my to do list today!
But the more mindful I have become over the years, the more meditating I do, the more focused I am, I realise that I wasn’t really being that productive at all.
What is multitasking?
The American Psychological Association says multitasking occurs when someone tries to perform two tasks simultaneously, switch from one task to another, or perform two or more tasks in rapid succession.
A sort of mental juggling.
But research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are.
In fact, some research suggests that multitasking can actually hamper your productivity by reducing your comprehension, attention, and overall performance.
In an article on LinkedIn, ‘Why Smart People Don’t Multitask’, Dr Travis Bradberry talks about diffferent research into this, but this paragraph really stood out to me:
“A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.”
The research found that multitasking can be incredibly stressful on the brain, it impairs short-term memory and concentration.
The psychologist who carried out the study, Dr Glenn Wilson, said people who are constantly breaking away from tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind as losing a night’s sleep.
But on the positive side, the IQ loss also turns out to be temporary.
Remove multitasking from the picture, and test scores jump back to normal.
I recently spotted a large billboard ad for the RACQ which said: Stop multitasking. Just drive.
I thought about this for quite some time.
A simple message, but very strong.
How many times have you arrived at your destination only to realise you don’t actually remember driving there or much along the route?
We’re constantly thinking of other things, and that to do list.
Maybe you make or receive phone calls while you are driving?
Or eat your lunch?
How much more we could achieve if we just did one thing at a time?
How much calmer would our minds be too?
Rather than the ‘monkey mind’ jumping around all over the place, we could be more focused and attentive.
In an interesting article in the New York Times last year, Oliver Burkeman wrote:
“There will always be too much to do, no matter what you do. But the ironic upside of this seemingly dispiriting fact is that you needn’t beat yourself up for failing to do it all, nor keep pressuring yourself to find ways to get on top of it all by means of increasingly extreme multitasking. Instead, you can pour your finite time, energy and attention into a handful of things that truly count. You’ll enjoy things more in the bargain.”
I also found a great quote that sums this up perfectly:
“Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there.”
– American humorist and writer, Josh Billings.
I think we could all see the sense in doing that!