Do you believe you achieve more by multitasking? How often do you feel that the only way to get through your workload and other commitments is to juggle several things at the same time? Therefore you might be surprised to learn that recent research has found that the brain is not designed for multitasking and can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking affects your cognitive functioning and our brains ability to process or retain information.
It has been proved by researchers at Stanford University that multitasking reduces your ability to focus, complete tasks efficiently and is less productive than doing one thing at a time. It also increases stress levels and can lead to anxiety, brain fog and poor decision making. The researches at Stanford found that even people who felt they were skilled at multitasking, and thought it made them perform better, were actually worse at multitasking than people who choose to do one thing at a time. Splitting your attention, being constantly interrupted and distracted affects your ability to think with insight and clarity.
At Sussex University, the neuroscientist Kep Kee Loh researched whether cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but he found that individuals who repeatedly multitask had less brain density in the part of the brain that is responsible for empathy and emotional control. Research is ongoing but it is interesting that multitasking in meetings or social gatherings, such as messaging, checking emails or looking at webpages, while you are conversing with someone, demonstrates low self-awareness and social awareness. Both of these emotional intelligence skills are essential for resilience, building relationships and success in your personal and professional life.
Here are 5 ways to help you to single task and improve your efficiency and resilience, have a better memory, increased productivity, more focus and a better quality of life and work. I hope you find them helpful.
- Self-awareness is the first step to changing a habit of multitasking. Prioritise your tasks and complete one at a time. Utilise the power of repetition and routine to train your brain to change to a habit of single tasking.
- Concentrate on doing one thing at a time and enjoy the satisfaction of being in the “flow” or “in the zone,” when you are consciously engaged in whatever you are doing. Experience a great deal of satisfaction and fulfilment by completing the task successfully and to the best of your ability.
- Focus for an hour at a time on a task and plan short regular breaks during the day to refresh and renew. Move away from your devices and resist from checking social media. Take a walk away from your desk, outside if possible, without your device and be aware of and enjoy your change of environment.
- Stop using your devices and other distractions when talking or listening to someone. Be mindful, be present and give them your full attention.
- Multitasking is opposite to mindfulness. By focusing on one thing at a time and being in the present and mindful is good at helping the mind and body to relax and de-stress and will increase your resilience and wellbeing.