Are you someone who is often multi-tasking & thinks you are being more efficient?
Here are some results from the actual science of multi-tasking and they are quite surprising to some people.
It’s not multi-tasking; it is actually SWITCHING between tasks.
Research at Vanderbilt University demonstrated that multi-tasking people attempting to do two tasks simultaneously were only just doing one task at a time & were actually switching back and forth, which created a bottleneck in the brain’s information processing area. Multi-tasking is necessary for professions like air-traffic controllers but for most other tasks, the conclusion was that the brain cannot as effectively do two things at once--contrary to what many multi-tasking people tell themselves.
Multi-tasking is actually fractionating attention & not being PRESENT
Another study at the University of Utah, found that multi-tasking people did so not because they have a special ability or are “good at it”, but rather because they are less able to focus on a single task while blocking out distractions. In other words people that have not trained their brains to focus their attention tend to use “multi-tasking” which is really fractionating their attention, and thus less productive and enjoyable than focused engagement. For example is love-making more enjoyable when you are thinking about what you have to do tomorrow or when you are so present you are engrossed in the sensory experience between you and your lover?
Multi-tasking is wastes TIME & risks MISTAKES
Multi-tasking does not save time, but rather the switching between tasks actually takes extra time and tends to result in more errors due to extra cognitive load, because the brain has to continually reorient and adjust to the second task while remembering where it paused with the first task.
Multi-tasking stultifies MEMORY & ORGANIZATION
Often, what we believe are memory problems are actually lack of focused attention. For example, “I am bad at remembering names” is actually the result of not being present when the person said their name. We cannot remember later what we do not pay attention to now. When attention is scattered and brain circuits are overloaded with stimuli, it impairs focus, prioritization, and organization.
Multi-tasking is impairs RELATIONSHIPS
Presence, eye contact, connectedness, authentic vulnerability and open-hearted engagement are some of the most desired and important qualities in relationships and friendships. When we are multi-tasking with fractionated attention, whether partially engaged with mobile devices, computers or television, they become barriers to trust, empathy, and closeness. If we justify our “multi-tasking” as a way to have more time for our relationships, let us be really honest with ourselves and know that our deeper presence is what is really most desired.
SO the summary is do NOT use multi-tasking unless it is an emergency. (NOTE: listening to music while you work or listening to an audio lecture while you walk or drive are exceptions and can actually enhance focus.) Otherwise, focus on one task, finish it sooner, and start the next task. Divided attention decreases productivity, creativity, work quality & enjoyment of the process. Poor concentration and lack of presence worsens relaxation and relationships. Effective prioritization reduces the need to multitask.
What is better than multi-tasking? The full engagement of Presence.
Are you easily distracted while you work inhibiting you from accomplishing tasks, completing projects, doing important things and actualizing your bigger vision?
In what activities do you tend to multi-task?
What habits or activities do you use to avoid being fully engaged in the present moment?
When you notice your attention is scattered or distracted, what do you do to refocus?
For those of us multi-taskers or dabblers that have a tendency to start one thing jump for one thing to another without finishing.
- Purchase some “play money” at a local party store or Amazon.com
- Each time you start a task lay down a $100 bill.
- If you complete the task pick the $100 bill back up.
- If you move to another task before completing leave the first $100 & lay down another $100 for the new task
- For each item you start (lay down a $100 bill) & complete (pick up the $100 bill)
- Carry around this wad of bills (start with 10 x $100 bills) with you throughout the day
- At the end of the work period count the money / attention you have maintained vs. how much is scattered