As a young college student, I had someone tell me that there was no such thing as multitasking. As a then proud busy bee who found value in multitasking, I debated with her that such an idea could not be true.
Myth: Multitasking is what happens when you work on several tasks at once.
Fact: Your brain cannot focus on more than one thing at any given time.
Now I know better and that multitasking is not just a myth but misleads brilliant minds into thinking they can do two things or more things at the same time effectively.
According to Psychology Today, "the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly." This means that when you think you are doing several things at once, you are only doing one thing for a few moments and then redirecting your attention to another.
But why is this a bad thing? Doesn't it mean you have trained your brain to think quicker? Well, not exactly.
For one, multitasking is actually an addictive behavior. Every time we get to a stopping point of a task dopamine is introduced into our bloodstream. Thus, we are encouraged to continue this behavior. It also tricks us into believing we've completed more than we have at the moment, but after looking at our task list at the end of the day we often find that we have not finished anything.
Not convincing enough?
According to researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London "multitasking causes a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night's sleep". The reason is that the constant switching of activities overstimulates the brain causing brain fog.
All things considered, you must evaluate your multitasking patterns and eliminate them where possible.
First, turn off your email notifications. Emails, texts, and phone calls are our biggest diversions and opportunity for "multitasking". Pick two to three times to check your email. Scan every email and flag, pin, or star anything that requires your response. Respond to the emails that you have time for and save the rest for next time.
Second, when scheduling your calendar to complete important tasks block it out for at least one hour. Marking your calendar as busy during the time it takes to complete an important project ensures that you will have the time to get it done and prevents you from being double booked. One hour allows time for your brain to release the last task and get fully involved in this one task. You'll notice an increase in productivity after the first fifteen minutes. Make sure your phone is on do not disturb mode and reserve a conference room if necessary.
Lastly, decide to be present in your meetings. If the meeting is not important to you decline it or let your supervisor know you don't see the value in attending. Ask their perspective and you may be able to free up some time. When accepting invitations that border between productivity and a waste of time let the host know that you may step out early to tend to other matters. You typically know that it is a waste within the first ten minutes.
It's time to take off this faux badge of honor and start working like you know you can. You need an air-tight productivity strategy and if you're near the Washington, DC area I have a masterclass this June. There are only a few spaces left - so save your spot as soon as you can!
Gabriella Payne increases engagement in teams and communities through inspiration and strategic development. She works with universities, athletic groups, and corporations to help students and recent graduates transform their futures through strategy development workshops. She is also an advocate for healthy relationships and teaches a series called "See It Coming".