How many times a day do you check your phone and social networking sites? How many donuts can you eat with a cup of tea in front of a computer? Would you be able to recall what those donuts tasted like? Multitasking is an essential attribute of our busy lives. But how justified is our need for multitasking? How effectively have heavy multitaskers performed and will perform in the future? Let’s find out in this article!
What is Multitasking?
Let’s talk about what multitasking is. Human multitasking is the idea that one can split their attention between more than one activity at the same time. Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switches and become prone to errors due to insufficient attention. It’s possible to quickly shift attention between tasks if one becomes proficient at multiple tasks. Multitasking is the act of doing more than one thing at the same time. Multitasking helps you save time and money in some cases, though trying to do more than one challenging task at a time may also decrease overall performance. Fact suggests that multitasking can actually hamper your productivity by reducing your comprehension, attention, and overall performance.
How Your Brain Multitasks
Multitasking is also related to our executive brain function. It is connected with the executive control of our brain. We are exhausted and emotionally drained from multitasking. A human isn’t able to solve more than two tasks at a time. It’s a proven fact. Our brain has two hemispheres. The front of the right hemisphere will be responsible for one task, while the front of the left hemisphere will be responsible for the other. A third task will make the brain work in a constant switch mode: completing a part of one task, then returning to the first one, and so on. This is nothing more than an illusion if we think we are doing several things at once. Saving yourself a lot of time is just as illusive. Multitasking brain takes a serious toll on productivity.
Research shows that multitasking changes the way our brain works. The front of the brain’s prefrontal cortex is activated when we focus on a single task. In those moments, both hemispheres work together. The hemispheres try to work on their own if there are two tasks. It can be happening at the same time if the tasks are different. If both tasks are at a high or average level of complexity, there’s a lot of switching going on between the hemispheres. It’s complex for our brain.
Constant switching task leads to the depletion of our resources and mistakes. Switch costs a lot of problems in our work. The number of mistakes during multitasking tends to increase in a pattern that is similar to geometric growth. This is especially true for tasks that are difficult or require a lot of thinking. For example, if you try to do three things at once, you will make three times as many mistakes as you would if you only did two things. Studies show that multitasking affects our emotional state. What’s more, study shows that multitasking affects our physical state too. When we switch between tasks, it disorients us. The tasks we are trying to complete can temporarily lower our intelligence. Also, when the brain works in a stressful multitasking mode, cortisol, and adrenalin levels go up. Multitasking can lead to hypertension as well as changes in the immune and endocrine systems.
Multitasking changes our brains, it reduces our ability to concentrate, memorize and think creatively. The ability to focus on something is lost by multitasking. You have a limit focus while multitasking. With multitasking, our brain loses the amount of operative memory. The human brain’s natural ability to multitask becomes a double-edged sword: the brain adapts to the multitasking mode of thinking, but it’s almost impossible to go back to how things were before. So, don’t overestimate the ability to multitask.
Benefits of Multitasking
Task switch can be useful. It can be useful when you combine tasks that are different. Any simple process can be accompanied by mental activity. Practice shows that the brain can come up with creative solutions when you are faced with a problem from a different perspective.
Creative people should take into another aspect. Creative thinking is limited by multitasking. There is not enough space for new ideas when you switch from process to process by multitasking. Those who are focused on completing a specific task have inspiration.
Here are the advantages of multitasking:
You can save money by multitasking. By doing several things at once, you can get rid of the need to hire someone to do the extra things. It is possible to reduce organizational costs by having employees who can do both jobs. For example, if an employee is great at customer service and operating equipment, they can answer customer questions and operate the switchboard.
Multitasking can make you more productive. Employees who are able to do multiple things are more likely to get more done than those who can’t. This approach to work could reduce the time needed for tasks and projects. Employees who are good at multitasking may also be able to get chores done at home faster and get some rest after a long day at work. The ability to do this may improve professionals’ stress levels and allow them to produce high-quality results when they return to work.
It’s possible to achieve more on your to-do list and waste less time doing it by multitasking. Multitasking allows employees to cross more tasks off of the daily to-do list, which is a strong motivator for the team. As your mind is busy with other activities, multitasking can keep you active.
Increases brain power
Just like the body needs exercise, the brain, too, requires constant engagement. Multitasking keeps your brain active and helps you get smarter. Multitasking challenges the brain, which can make your mental stamina stronger. When you practice multitasking, the brain becomes more efficient. This is the reason multitasking is a skill that anyone can learn.
Works through distractions
Technology has made some work easier, but it has also introduced a lot of distractions. You may need to read and respond to official emails in the morning and update company social media accounts. While doing this, you may also be distracted by notifications on your phone. Multitasking skills let you juggle between two tasks even with distractions. Being able to work through distractions is a skill that is important for professionals.
How Multitasking Affects Productivity
It’s safe to say that even if you try to keep the time needed to switch as short as possible, there is still a lot of time lost. During an experiment, it was found that you spend 40% more time on tasks when you try to do more than one at a time. What about the emotional aspect? We are closer to a state of stress if we jump from one task to another. The disease of the 21st century known as chronic fatigue stems from multitasking, an attempt to do it all at once. Even if you do two things at once, it will only be efficient if those things are completely different in terms of their cognitive value. If different parts of the brain are responsible for each one, you can do two things at once: listening to music and speaking.
How to Be Efficient Without Multitasking
We all know that multitasking has a negative impact on us. But how can you be efficient without multitasking? There are techniques how to maximize productivity and minimize multitasking.
Single tab technique
Try leaving just one tab in your browser open. Yes, you can do it, it will only take a few days of practice. This approach will let you focus on the specific task at hand. It will also help you choose which task to do by how important and urgent they are. The next task can be opened once you have finished the current one. Following this rule will get rid of the need for your brain to switch from one thing to another. This will save task time and money.
By learning to prioritize, you will increase your efficiency. You can divide your tasks into 4 groups based on their importance and urgency:
- Urgent and important;
- Urgent and not so important;
- Not urgent, but important;
- Not urgent and not so important.
You should be dealing with tasks in the order they appear, from top to bottom. Practice shows that if you organize all of your tasks this way, your life will be a lot easier. You have enough time to do all the tasks if you move down from more important tasks. Also, as you go down that list, tasks from the last group tend to get rid of themselves and no longer need your attention.
Several monitors technique
This one is similar to the previous one, but it’s more efficient. This rule says that every task should happen in a new workplace. One task you complete at the office, then another task in another part of the city. Moving around gives you a chance to take a break and switch your brain to another task. This rule is hard to follow, but you should try whenever you can.
The Pomodoro Technique
This technique blocks time. The idea is to have 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of rest, and another 25 minutes of work and so on. You must focus on a specific task without getting distracted every time you work. Then you relax for 5 minutes and then move on to the next task. The technique is great in terms of allowing you to fully focus on the working process. The only problem is that everyone is different. Some people will be able to get work done in those 25 minutes, but others will have their work broken up by the timer’s beep, which will introduce unnecessary nervousness and break up their working rhythm. We think that this technique is a good idea and should be used. The time interval will be different for different people.
The power of motivation should never be underestimated. Every employer needs to reward their employees for good work, and the employee needs to find ways to motivate themselves. When properly motivated, we are wired to function most productively. You get to choose how to motivate yourself, whether it’s playing your favorite computer game for half an hour or eating a cupcake.
Everyone needs to relax sometimes. We can give our brain a break only by relaxing, letting it get rid of the stress, and handling new tasks. A good way to change up your routine is to do something intellectual, like brain work, then do something physical, like a mechanical activity.
Let’s Wrap it up!
The things we talked about help you maximize your time and minimize damage to your body. But constantly remember that there is one rule that you must follow if you want to really work instead of just putting it off. All and any distractions should be left out. Before you start work, make sure you turn off the phone or get it out of sight, exit mail programs and messengers, leave social networks, and change your status to “Do not disturb” in Skype and other apps. Only in this case, you will be able to fully enjoy the ripe fruit of your labor.
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