We all do it: Texting while listening to radio, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while jumping from one website to another.
Most of us try to keep up several tasks at the same time, because doing just one thing at a time seems quite luxurious and wasteful in today’s life.
But let me tell you that multitasking is a big fat lie. What you call multitasking is really task-switching. Each time we move from writing a text to talking to someone, there is a “stop/start” process that goes on in the brain.
So, we are not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them extremely quickly
Yes, the brain is very good at deluding itself. We merely shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed and we think we do multitask.
The bottom line is, multitasking doesn’t save time, it kills our performance. We may lose up to 40% of our productivity by task Switching. Ouch!
Research conducted at Stanford University revealed that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it increases their performance—were actually performing worse than those who like to do a single thing at a time. This is because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information.
So, if you are a multitasker, you might want to re-think your strategy. Each task switch might waste only a fraction of a second, but if you do a lot of switching in a day it can add up to a loss of 40% of your productivity.
However, there are two exceptions here; The automatic behaviors, those ones that are in our default, like walking or chewing gum. So you can walk and talk on the phone without a problem.
The second exception is when we use different parts of the brain for each of the two tasks. For instance, you can listen to music and talk on the phone. However, if you want to understand the lyrics of the music and talk simultaneously, that’s nearly impossible. Human brain can only handle two tasks without too much trouble, if it uses different parts of the brain.
Another study from Microsoft Corp found that the average attention span for a goldfish is nine seconds, and humans lose concentration after eight seconds. Be noted that goldfish is notoriously an ill-focused animal.
We lose focus quicker than a goldfish. It is all because of the digitalized culture we live in. We try to absorb a lot of things at the same time and do a bunch of things simultaneously.
We bombarded ourselves with several streams of electronic information, so we cannot pay attention, hence we cannot swallow the data, consequently we cannot recall information and we become forgetful.
Let’s encourage a “be here now” culture
Encourage mindfulness at the beginning of the day, as well as whenever you want to start a major work.
I don’t mean you need to hold meditation or yoga sessions at work (I am not a yoga type too). Simply try to keep your focus on the most important tasks and don’t deviate yourself.
Every while, stop what you are doing, close your eyes, take a deep breath, hold it for some seconds, and then slowly release it. Think about your important tasks of the day and keep yourself on them.
Make sure you are fully present at what you are doing in the very same moment And just think, by switching from multi-tasking to single-tasking you might even increase your productivity by 40%.