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According to scientists, your brain isn’t built for multitasking and managing the barrage of information it faces daily. The best way to protect it is to practice single-taking.
You think that you can respond to emails, text messages, toggle between multiple tabs on a browser, and scroll through social media feeds, whilst working on important tasks — but, your brain would say otherwise. When we try to multitask, we damage our brains in ways that negatively affect our well-being, mental performance and productivity.
Multitasking can lead to permanent brain damage
A study from the University of Sussex (UK) compared the brain structure of participants with the amount of time they spent on media devices i.e. texting or watching TV. The implication of their findings, is that multitasking could permanently alter brain structure after a long period of usage.
Multitasking reduces efficiency and mental performance
According to Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, “when we toggle between tasks, the process often feels seamless, but in reality, it requires a series of small shifts.”
Each small shift leads to a cognitive cost. It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on a task after an interruption. And that’s just one interruption!
Multitasking reduces focus and concentration
Multitasking creates an addiction, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. Each time we multitask we train our brains to lose focus and get distracted.
Multitasking could make you dumber
A study conducted by the University of London, found that participants who multitasked, experienced drops in IQ points, down to the average level of an 8-year old child.
Studies have also shown that multitasking also hinders learning. On average, students who multitask, had a lower GPA and grades, than those who didn’t. Quality focus and attention is required for learning.
Multitasking creates stress and anxiety
Multitasking increases our brain’s production of cortisol, a hormone that creates stress. Once we’re stressed and mentally fatigued, anxiety builds up. And this leads to stress builds up. It’s a vicious cycle of constant stress and anxiety.
But, not all multitasking activities are equally stressful. By far one of the main stressors is email inbox. Excess cortisol is produced, when we switch between reading and responding to emails. Therefore, declutter your email inbox as soon as possible.
Multitasking kills creativity
Innovative thinking comes from extended concentration. When you try to multitask, you typically don’t get far enough down any road to stumble upon something original because you’re constantly switching and backtracking. Breakthrough ideas would pass you by during moments of multitasking.
Multitasking could reduce emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a common trait within 90% of top performers in any field. Multitasking could damage the part of the brain responsible for emotional intelligence. Two key components of emotional intelligence, self and social awareness, could diminish significantly due to multitasking.
Multitasking causes overwhelm and burnout
Multitasking is taxing on the brain and drains precious energy. Shifting attention from one activity to another causes our brain to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. Rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain.
Multitasking leads to stupid decisions
Multitasking and constantly switching between tasks also hurts decision-making skills. This leads to the build up of decision fatigue and deterioration of quality decisions after you’ve made a long series of decisions. After making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.
Protect your brain and productivity
The best way to protect your brain is to practice single-taking. Focus on one thing at a time and take breaks every hour and half, to regain your energy.
Work in a distraction free environment — keep phones and media devices out of sight.
Multitasking feels good, but it isn’t worth your time, energy and certainly, not your brain.
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