Multitasking is addictive!
3 ways multitasking is harmful
How many times have you been at work and were dialed into a conference call but were able to check your email, prepare your travel receipts and check your Twitter feed? Sounds familiar? You are not alone, for this is a classic case of multitasking in the corporate world.
Many people falsely believe that multitasking is synonymous with productivity. Actually, the opposite is true. These multitasking professionals generate a false sense of accomplishment for themselves. But the brain was never built to multitask. The brain becomes addicted to multitasking and as with any addiction, can be damaging on the brain.
Researchers at Stanford University showed that people who multitask were much less productive compared to individuals completing one task at a time. Why one might ask? The researchers conclude that those individuals described as frequent multitaskers have greater difficulty in organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information. Therefore, they were slower at switching from one task to another. Simply put, they were less productive!
In one of our recent blog posts we commented that multitasking is “best left in the kitchen.” Here are 3 ways multitasking damages the brain and hurts your productivity.
It lowers your IQ
Researchers at the University of London found that multitasking lowers your IQ by an amount similar to missing one night of sleep. Even if the multitasker feels that they are getting more done, they are actually working at a much lower cognitive level. Even worse, the drop in IQ from multitasking was found to be similar to the effects of smoking marijuana.
This lower level of cognitive function is detrimental to you as an employee and especially as an entrepreneur where high cognitive function is essential. A study conducted several years ago by Basex concluded that companies each year lose over $650 billion due to lost productivity resulting from distractions at work. Clearly this negatively impacts profitability of a corporation or your startup!
It damages the brain
There is an addiction that forms from the instant gratification of completing small tasks, such as responding to an email. But as with any addiction, this can have negative consequences on the brain. Even more worrisome is that researchers at the University of Sussex showed multitaskers have less brain density on MRI brain scans in a region responsible for cognitive and emotional control. In summary, not only is multitasking detrimental on IQ, this study suggests multitasking is detrimental on EQ, or emotional intelligence, as well.
It increases stress
As mentioned above, multitasking fulfills an addiction but with any addiction, future rewards become less pleasing and harder to find. The same applies with the chronic multitasker. Decreased productivity will eventually reveal itself and make the multitasker feel like their plate is “always full”. This perpetual feeling of being behind and overwhelmed at work drives up stress exponentially. This heightened stress will affect performance and morale at work; leading to increased employee turnover. This high turnover is costly to many companies.
Keys to overcome multitasking
The key to overcoming the negative consequences of multitasking is to focus on two simple elements. Focus on a) the amount of time you spend on each task, and b) the intensity of your focus during this time. Georgetown professor Cal Newport states that if you can increase your focus, then you will be able to get more done in less time. Dr. Newport stresses that being able to increase your focus requires training, which starts by eliminating your addiction to distraction.
Central to this training is the art of mindfulness. Eliminating all mental distractions for as little as 3-5 minutes in the day is the cornerstone to fixing the addiction of multitasking. Introduce a daily mindful practice is part of the foundation to eliminate the addiction of multitasking.
For more information on how to start meditation, please read the blog post by The Success Trinity: How to Meditate – A Quick Guide.
The Success Trinity is passionate about nurturing others to find personal success. The foundation of our philosophy is to attain greater mindfulness and complimented with motivation techniques. The start of a mindfulness practice is no different; one must be continually motivated to commit to a mindfulness practice. That commitment must continue until the practice becomes automatic and the subconscious rewiring has begun to take shape.
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