On the surface, multitasking seems like a good idea. Why not do two, or even three things at the same time, instead of one? It may sound like a good idea in theory, but when it comes to real life, multitasking isn’t effective. In fact, it’s probably killing your productivity without you knowing it.
Here are a few reasons why you should not try to multitask.
- Our brains are not wired to multitask
You might think you’re a great multitasker. You probably even put it on your resume. But science says otherwise. It’s a fact – our brains are not wired to multitask. We fool ourselves into thinking we’re a multitasking extraordinaire because we can text a friend and watch football at the same time. In the world of work, you’re probably engaged in higher-level tasks than watching the big game while texting. In other words, your multitasking technique won’t translate into increased productivity on the job. Studies show that multitasking is ineffective because the brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time. Switching back and forth between tasks causes you to miss important details and never allows you to concentrate on a single task. Experts also say it can take as long as 20 minutes to get your mind fully re-engaged to a task after being interrupted.
- You’re not really multitasking
We may be able to multitask physically (chew gum and fold laundry), but there’s really no such thing as multitasking when it comes to cognitive tasks. What you’re doing is known as task-switching. Back and forth. Back and forth. Task-switching depletes your mental energy at a quicker rate and never allows you to “get in the zone.” The bottom line, it’s draining and inefficient. Experts say it’s best to do things in batches. Give all your attention and focus to that report, then check email.
- You’re prone to mistakes and stressed out
Switching back and forth between tasks at a rapid rate while trying to focus on more than one thing at a time is a recipe for disaster. Your brain and body are in a state of chaos, which leads to errors and stress. Those are two things that certainly won’t earn you that big promotion you’re working towards, right? Researchers at the University of California Irvine showed that chronic multitaskers had elevated heartbeats compared to their more calm, singularly focused co-workers. The multitaskers were in a constant state of high alert. This state wears on your physical and mental health.
The lesson is simple – multitasking is overrated. Stop doing it. You’ll be happier and more productive.