As Americans, we pride ourselves on our ability to multitask. Smartphones and technology have made this even more prevalent. We can reply to emails while in the bathroom. We can cook dinner while cleaning the kitchen while doing research for our next Amazon purchase. We try to hold multiple conversations at once. Here’s one that I see all too often that I BEG you to not do: drive and be on our phones.
We are, in fact, expected to multitask constantly. Have you ever seen a job posting that doesn’t specifically request the ability to multitask?
Well, turns out, this is not good for our brains, our relationships or our work and, in fact, you can’t actually multitask at all.
Here are some common myths about multitasking.
1. We’re good at multitasking.
Sorry. It’s true. Turns out that people who rated themselves as being good at multitasking were actually the worst. What we have come to be so proud of and familiar with isn’t actually multitasking at all, but just rapidly switching between tasks. When we do try to “multitask”, talk on the phone while walking, we have whats called, “Inattentional blindness”. This means while we’re focusing on one thing, we miss what’s happening around us. One study showed that college students while doing something as simple as walking across campus and talking on the phone missed seeing a clown on a unicycle along the way.
2. Multitasking makes us more productive
This rapid switching of tasks actually slows us down and doesn’t let us fully enter into the productive zone. Attention and focus is a finite resource in our brains on any given day. Attention to one project takes away energy from another. Especially as those resources get depleted, we’re more likely to make mistakes, overlook details and even drive slower while chatting on the phone. This can add up to a 40% decrease in productivity. While a brief break to watch cat videos will actually make you more productive, trying to watch those videos while working, will decrease your productivity.
If you’re looking for a way to get things done quicker, give yourself time to get into the zone and finish projects in batches. Pay all your bills at once, write all your thank you letters at the same time, enter all the data into only one spreadsheet at time.
3. Multitasking doesn’t affect our health
Switching back and forth between tasks puts our bodies into a state of heightened awareness and bumps up the Alpha waves in our brains. This state of high alert increases blood pressure, feelings of stress and depression.
It also affects our memory. By not allowing our brains to enter into the focus zone, we’re not allowing memories to register, short or long term. Important details will forgotten easier or missed entirely. Unfortunately, this only gets worse with age. One study showed that it takes more time for those in their later years longer to recover from a distraction than those in their 20s.
Even our weight is affected by trying to multitask. Taking mindfulness away from eating causes our brains to not register when we are full. This adds additional calories we aren’t even aware of. If you must eat while working, take a moment with each bite to let yourself mindfully notice your food and look away from your screen.
4. Our relationships don’t suffer
How often have we been having a conversation when we get a notification on our phone? We take a second away from our conversation at hand and put it on the conversation in our hand. Perhaps we can pick the conversation up again. Perhaps it will get lost. Either way, it doesn’t feel that good to be the person talking to someone distracted by their cell phone or being put as a lower priority than a junk email. Often the other person picks up their cell phone too and the conversation has completely disintegrated. A recent study has shown that even having a cell phone nearby can cause friction in a relationship. Put the phone completely away and focus fully on with whom you’re having a conversation. See what it does to your relationships and your daily life satisfaction.
5. Creativity can flow freely while multitasking
Working memory, or “temporary brain storage”, is required for creative thinking. This is true for both classic creative tasks and problem solving. When your brain is already stretched thin trying to focus while switching tasks quickly, it has no room left to devote to creativity. Coming up with solutions requires slowing down and focusing on less.
6. Multitasking is safe
If you read no other portion of this article, please let it be this!!!! Multitasking is not safe!! Studies have shown that distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. It’s been said so many times its starting to sound like noise, but it’s because so many people continue to do it. Just because you haven’t gotten into an accident while texting and driving yet, doesn’t mean you are good at it! Whenever I’m tempted to send a text, look at the weather, read an email while driving, I literally ask myself, “Is this worth my life?” Obviously the answer is always no. When you are on your phone while driving, it’s not just your life that you are risking, it’s also your passengers, other people on the road and everyone who will be effected if an accident happens.
Being distracted isn’t only dangerous while driving. 1 in 5 teenagers who were in the ER due to a being hit by a car admitted to being on their phones at the time of the accident. As we mentioned earlier, you are not as aware of your surroundings while trying to do more than one thing. A distracted person walking and a distracted person driving is a recipe for something bad to happen.
So please, please, please, put your phones away while you drive. Whatever it is can wait. We live in a beautiful state. Take a moment to see the mountains and our beautiful city instead of your phone screen.
I'm not too proud to admit, I did a lot of rapid task switching while writing the article. I can say with certainty, had I not been making and eating lunch, talking to my cats, checking the status of my Amazon orders, watching for the mail truck, chatting with my husband online, checking my email and writing my to-do list of everything I need to get done next, this article would have come together much faster and that to do list would be smaller by now.
So, instead of giving small amounts of attention to many things, thus, reducing productivity and efficiency, focus on one task until it’s done then move to the next task. OHIO. Only Handle It Once. Start it. Do it. Finish it. You’ll be more productive, less stressed, have better relationships, lose weight and save lives! Without rapidly switching between tasks, you may find your attention span increasing too!
If you are finding it difficult to think clearly or focus Chiropractic may be able to help! Listen to Sanna tell her experience of the results first hand. Here in Longmont, we may be able to help with ADD, ADHD, brain fog, and and, of course, improved focus that comes with a decrease of pain. Give us a call at 303-776-6767 to begin to see if we can help improve your brain function.