I never know how my day is going to look like. Every morning when I open my laptop what I do know is that there is a number of tasks waiting for me to attend to, but there are also the ones I can’t predict, which will be coming through my emails, calls, texts, etc. and within just first two hours I can catch myself multitasking already.
One of our biggest challenges today is doing one thing at a time only. But let’s see what happens when we do it and, luckily, neuroscience has some pretty clear insights on what is happening when we multitask and how productive we actually are.
With technology and everything available instantly, writing emails, talking to a colleague, while listening to music, or answering to someone in a chat is what most of us are doing every day, and we might consider being really good at it and that it does not affect us much. But is it true?
Here are some facts about multitasking:
Fact 1– When we are focusing on 1 task, both sides of our prefrontal cortex are sharing that task.
Fact 2– When we are working on 2 tasks, each brain hemisphere is focused on one of those two tasks only.
And since we have two frontal lobes it is becoming almost impossible to be fully focused on more than two tasks.
Fact 3– We cannot multitask, we can only task switch. Multitasking simply means doing everything you do with less attention and not being fully present, thus making more mistakes and feeling more stress.
“Task switching does reduce performance and leads to a lot of mistakes. On top of that, tasks switching is stressful and causes mental fatigue. It deteriorates our mood and affects our decision-making.” Dr. Arnaud Complainville
Fact 4- Multitasking lowers IQ – A study at the University of London found that participants who were multitasking on a cognitive task experienced IQ scores declined
Fact 5 – It has negative effects on the brain and our EQ
“Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.” Dr. Travis Bradberry
Our brains can absorb millions of bits of information but can process only a part of it.
What can we do to make sure we are more productive and effective in what we do?
1/ Do one thing at a time
2/ Consciously remove distractions: silent unnecessary phone notifications
3/ Close multiple tabs on your computer that will distract you
4/ Spend a day without any technology (weekend?)
5/ Dedicate time during the day for your social media accounts: once a day, twice a day and make sure to stick to it
6/ Find a working space with no disruptions
7/ Group your daily tasks into similar ones and dedicate time for them without going back from one to another: make phone calls, send emails, print projects, etc.
7/ Learn how to come back to the present moment- Check out some mindfulness techniques
While writing about this I had to: Remind myself not to pick up my phone at the ring of a message I received in my chat; Close all irrelevant tabs not to distract me, and even forget what I was writing about in the first place; Find time to do it and not switch to emails that kept coming in.
And before that, I sat for a few minutes focusing on my breathing, just to bring my attention and focus here and now, and all of this is not difficult to do at all if we are a bit more intentional in what we are doing and a bit more aware.
Neuromindfulness Institute, France
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life: H.Garsia & F.Miralles
Author: Ana Toroman, Talent Development Consultant
Being a part of training and development education programs across companies in the Middle East, I help people develop their potential through learning key social skills for career building, with a particular interest in emotional resilience in the workplace. Having started my career in HR and education and working as a Corporate Trainer & Coach in Dubai, I work on self-development strategies for both teams and individuals. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn here or follow me on Instagram on HR and Wellbeing page here