Multitasking used to be a hot buzzword. Ask people to name a strength, and ninety percent will say “multitasking.” (Ten bucks you’ve used it in an interview at some point in your life!) Our culture loves multitasking. We practically wear it as a badge.
However, new research suggests that multitasking is incredibly INEFFECTIVE. And it also has some seriously harmful effects on our health. For decades, we’ve been told it’s a skill and a strength. Nope, not anymore. Read on for some surprising facts about why managing multiple things at once isn’t such a good idea.
Multitasking harms performance. Your brain can really only focus on one thing at a time. And when you ask your brain to do multiple things at once, you’re stretching it past its natural capacity. Now, for those of you thinking, “But wait, I can totally talk and check email at the same time.” Yes, technically you can. But you can’t do both things well.
Multitasking leads to stress. When you multitask, you’re asking your brain to do something that it’s not designed to do. And that stresses you out! One of my favorite definitions of stress is “when the resources required are greater than the resources available.” When you multitask, you’re asking your brain to give more resources than it has available. Cue stress.
Multitasking impacts memory. When you’re constantly taking in information associated with different topics and tasks, your brain has a hard time distinguishing what’s important. As you toggle back and forth between texts, emails, and the person in your office, your brain isn’t exactly sure what it’s supposed to pay attention to. This makes it difficult to process and store information. This might explain why you can’t remember what you told your coworker five minutes ago.
Multitasking reduces focus. Turns out the phrase, “Focus on the task at hand,” has a lot of truth behind it. Every time you switch back and forth between tasks, your brain uses energy to adjust and readjust. When you move away from a task, your brain has to get acclimated. And that’s certainty not helpful for paying attention.
Multitasking leaves you feeling stretched and like you’re not doing anything well. Because multitasking affects performance, focus, mood, and memory, you often feel discouraged in the midst of a million demands. You’re left feeling like nothing got your full attention and everything suffered. Give yourself a break and a chance to feel good about what you do.
If you’re someone who often tries to do multiple things at once, now might be a good time to reconsider. Multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
PS: If you found this post helpful, definitely check out this quick video: Boost Productivity and Focus with This 15 Second Trick.