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Multitasking: how it works and why you should stop

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

All of us have heard at least once in their lifetime that being a multitasker is a good thing. It’s one of the most commonly mentioned strengths during job interviews and a reason to brag. But is it true? Is multitasking actually good for your productivity and well-being?

Researchers have proved switching between tasks and doing multiple things at the same time as ineffective and, in fact, harmful.

“When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount. It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.” says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries.

Why is it important to keep your focus on a specific subject? Easy! 👇

  1. Your work quality drops significantly According to studies conducted at the University Of London, people who multitask while performing cognitive tasks show a drop in IQ. It’s comparable to a drop we can observe in individuals who smoke marijuana or lose a full night of sleep. Fun fact: it’s worse for men and their IQ can drop by as much as 15 points. That takes you back to… elementary school.

  2. It doesn’t save time It’s a commonly known myth that doing everything at once will save you some hours and you’ll be done earlier. Well… No. Our brain can’t handle focusing deeply on different tasks, which actually leads to slowing down instead of doing everything faster. “What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches,” says Winch. “Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in a groove you should stay there and finish.”

  3. Productivity drops by up to 40% You’re more likely to make mistakes, especially if your tasks require critical thinking. Being in deep focus and suddenly switching to a different task is considered a distraction. And, according to The University of California, it takes 23 minutes 15 seconds on average to get your focus back.

  4. You can damage your brain Dramatic, yes. But unfortunately true. University of Sussex conducted a study of MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once. The results showed that multitaskers had often less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s a lot of complicated words, we know. To make it easier - that area of our brains is responsible for empathy and emotional control.

  5. Never-ending busyness Let’s be honest, it makes you stressed. It creates the feeling of doing a lot, while (point 2) you’re actually not achieving as much as you could. That leads to higher rates of anxiety and burnouts. It makes it harder to relax, so in the end even our free time is corrupted by work thoughts.

But hey, there’s also good news - you’re obviously on the right track to eliminate multitasking from your life, since you’re reading this article. And since we care about your well-being, do yourself a favour and kick that habit out of your routine. So is becoming better at single-tasking and avoiding distractions on your task list? 😉 We sure hope so and are rooting for you!

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