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Multitasking Doesn't Work

A man overwelmed by multitasking

Author: Michelle Mamerto

Multitasking involves working on two or more tasks simultaneously, switching back and forth from one task to another. Multitasking can make us feel like we are getting things done efficiently, but in truth, our brains aren’t wired to do more than one thing at a time. Studies show that the human brain struggles to fully focus on multiple tasks at once. Our brains have evolved to specialize in single-task- thinking. It’s almost always more efficient to focus on one task, and to move on when you’re done. 

In addition to making more errors, it takes longer to complete two tasks simultaneously. Research indicates that when we are constantly task-switching- especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention, we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake. 

Multitasking can affect one’s ability to learn, because in order to learn, you need to be able to focus. If you are constantly getting interrupted by coworkers, phone calls, or social media notifications, it becocmes difficult, if not impossible, to retain all of the information you were focussed on. Multitasking leads to overactivity in the brain. This can cause an over-stimulation, which in turn can lead to memory loss. This can compund with other factors such as age, environment, and health to further accelerate memory decline. 

You are also more likely to get mentally exhausted much more quickly, leading to a higher risk of burning out. For example, taking conference calls while trying to organize documents for an event can put more pressure on you, increasing stress levels. That stress can then cause an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. When our brain consistently goes back and forth between tasks, it makes us feel tired and stressed out, leaving us mentally and physically exhausted. In addition, the constant bombardment of information can pile up, and while you might not feel it immediately, this can create even more stress in the future.  

It’s not easy to stop multitasking, especially since this is something many of us do so often. Try planning your workdays so that you don't need to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. By focussing on doing a single task at a time you might see an improvement in your mental and physical health, finding yourself more engaged, focused, productive, and impactful.  


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