multitasking doesn't work

Busting the multi-tasking myth – 5 reasons why it doesn’t work

Whether it’s taking a hands-free call whilst driving, checking the emails during the middle of a meeting, or trying to do the day job whilst juggling homeschooling! We’ve all done it and there is a common misconception that multitasking equals efficiency.

I used to believe I was an excellent multitasker, and this past year has certainly put that belief to the test!  But what I’ve actually discovered is I’m not!  At first, I wondered if it was an age thing, but now I know it’s because we’re not actually built to do multiple things at once.

I know what you’re thinking – and you’re right – we can do multiple things at once…but are we doing them well?! The answer is most likely NO and I’m going to explain why!

  1. Your brain was not built that way

It may come as a surprise to learn that a study carried out by researchers at Stanford University, found those who multitask, fundamentally change the way their brains work.  The results showed that the brain becomes less efficient, even when a person returns to a state of unitasking!  The research suggests that being bombarded by multiple streams of information results in people who “do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.” Travis Bradbury, Forbes.

2. It’s too stressful

The same study went on to show that doing multiple things at once actually creates extra stress and this can have a significant negative impact on our wellbeing, motivation, and productivity.  Various studies have also found that multitasking can increase cortisol, the stress hormone! So, by multitasking we are predisposing ourselves to a state of stress!

3. You WILL make mistakes

“Multitasking divides your attention and leads to confusion and weakened focus.”

Deepak Chopra

Our brains are designed to do one thing at a time! Research suggests multitasking negatively affects performance and decreases productivity by up to 40 percent.

4. It kills your creativity

“Innovative thinking, after all, comes from extended concentration…When you try to multitask, you typically don’t get far enough down any road to stumble upon something original because you’re constantly switching and backtracking.”

Neuroscientist, Earl Miller

We all know that when we relax the mind, do things more gently, then creative ideas pop into our head, like when we are out on a walk or resting.

5. You are missing out on life

Multitasking leads to inattentional blindness.  This means the brain cannot process your surroundings effectively, so you literally miss seeing what is right in front of you!

If I don’t multi-task how am I going to get everything done? 

Instead of multitasking, start prioritising!  Spend the first part of your day, identifying the key priorities. Work on them one by one and tick them off as you go.  For each task completed you’ll be rewarded with Dopamine, which some call the reward chemical.  This can be highly motivating and lead to greater levels of productiveness. 

Set some hard boundaries which will help limit distractions. For example, switch off email notifications which can break your attention and instead check your inbox at set times throughout the day, when you’re not in the middle of a task!

If you are feeling overwhelmed consider using a Virtual Personal Assistant – as the saying goes, many hands make light work!

If you are interested in exploring the multitasking myth further here is some additional reading:Further Reading

Multitasking Damages You Brain and Career New Studies Suggest

Multitask Research Study

12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now