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Multitasking is bad for you…

#multitasking #reasons why multitasking is bad for you# research on multitasking
Oh er…..sorry! That was what the guy said when he crashed into me on the street. I was walking along with two bags of shopping, minding my own business and this guy walked straight into me. We did the soft shoe shuffle thing that people do on the streets when they want avoid collusion but for us it was too late. It was his fault. He was sensing his way down the street rather than looking where he was going. You see he is one of the growing breed of people who seem to think that they can text, walk and pay due diligence to life and limb at the same time.

This irritating incident got me thinking about the whole business of multitasking…the act of engaging in more than two things at the same time.

Scientist agree that we do not know very much about the brain.

What we do know so far is that the brain likes to do things in sequence…it loves exercise preferably outdoors and it likes to be well feed and rested.

But instead of acknowledging that we don’t know much about the brain …we make stuff up. People say with great authority that humans only use 10% of their brain. Well I can see that that might be true for some people but I find it hard to believe that that is the case for everyone. Then they say that there are right brain thinkers and left brain thinkers. If that is the case how do we explain Leonardo Di Vinci who could do mathematics and paint or Einstein who could do physics and play instruments. And how does right brain and left brain ideas explain away the autistic child who can do brain gymnastics but doesn’t have the coordination to hold a knife and fork.

When we think about it seriously we intuitively know that multitasking is not right. It doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t look right. Think about the surgeon carrying out major heart operation. Is it Ok for him to operate and talk to his mother on his mobile at the same time? Is it Ok for the teacher to have headphones on and be listening to music while taking class. And is it alright for people to be driving and texting. No it isn’t. In fact scientists say that multitasking is impossible …it is counterproductive… it is dangerous and it is unhealthy.

Multitasking is impossible

According to John Medina, a Developmental Molecular Biologist and author of ‘Brain Rules’ multitasking is a myth and that we are biologically incapable of doing it. He argues the brain is like a pie. Doing more doesn’t give you a bigger or better pie. What we are actually doing when we think we are multitasking is sequencing. In other words stopping and starting and stopping and starting.

Multitasking is counterproductive

We live in a multi- device and multi- function world. We are bombarded with interruptions on a daily basis. Mobile, Facebook, colleagues’, and family you name it. Doing more than one thing at the same time has become the norm. But…

When you multitask the brain must go through 4 separate processes. a) Let’s say you are writing an email and a customer calls, the brain is alerted to the fact that you must shift your attention from task 1 to task 2. b) The brain needs to find the part of itself that can respond to the customer. c) After dealing with the customer, the brain must disengage task 2 and reengage task 1. When you go back to the email you will probably have to reread the email to ascertain where you were and it will take a while for you to re-adjust and ‘ramp up’ again d) Your brain has to go and reactivate the part of itself that can write emails.

Because of the stages that the brain has to go through for you to achieve the unnatural act of multitasking it stands to reason that you lose time. Researchers have calculated that we lose up to 40% productivity and can make up to 50% more mistakes in the process.

Multitasking is dangerous

We know that multitasking is dangerous. Studies on people that drive and text say that their reflexes are impaired by just a couple of seconds. But it is those couple of seconds that is crucial when deciding to slam on the brakes or not. To give you an idea of how dangers driving and texting is…the police now compare it and treat it the same as drinking and driving.

Multitasking is stressful

There is about 2% of the population who can multitask very well. That is because they know one or both of the tasks so well they go into autopilot. Another set of people who do well with multitasking are those who have outstanding memories. So they can leave one thing and pick up another seamlessly with no lapse in efficiency. For the rest of us we do not fair too well when we are bombarded with tasks and it all becomes overwhelming. You know how irritating it is when someone constantly interrupts you when you need to get on with something. Well multitasking is like interrupting yourself constantly.

We are always in a state of nervous anxiety. When we multitask we oscillating between rushes of dopamine and adrenaline. We take on too much…run around like headless chickens trying to finish everything and failing to finish anything.

When we are in the thick of multitasking we forget to pause and smell the roses. We miss moments. We can never actually get in the zone of doing something. We become hyperactive and twitchy. We can’t really create anything because to create something you need to be very present. Multitasking can affect relationship because we can never rally focus on people, friends and family when we are focusing on the stuff we have to get done.

So let’s be a little more Zen like and focus on what we are doing and do one thing at a time. I know it’s never going to happen but doing one thing at a time is the way we were designed.

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