If you are like me you have spent most of your life thinking that multitasking was a good thing. I admit I have boasted about my ability to multitask on several occasions. So imagine my shock when my time management research informed me I was wrong. I had to double check my facts because no one likes to be wrong.
So, should you stop multitasking? I was reluctant to give up my multitasking but the following reasons convinced me. Number 4 was the dealbreaker.
- You are not really multitasking
What you are actually doing is task switching. Shifting your focus from one task to another. The big issue is that you are never fully focused on doing one thing so both tasks suffer. Some tasks like eating while walking are less taxing on the mind than others, like texting while driving. Research results show that the brain splits in half. This causes us to forget details and make three times more mistakes when given two simultaneous tasks.
2. Multitasking doesn’t help you get more done in less time.
Researchers at Stanford determined that doing more than one task at a time is less productive than focusing on one task at a time.
3. Multitasking decreases your productivity and your performance.
Our brains are not wired to focus on more than one task at a time. Working on a single task means both sides of the prefrontal cortex are working together in harmony. Adding another task forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. Brain science also reveals that the brain can’t effectively handle more than two complex, related activities at once. Each time you more than one task, the brain automatically discards one task.
4. Multitasking lowers your IQ
Studies in London have shown that multitaskers had a reduction in their IQ scores while multitasking. Some of the multitasking men in the study had their IQ drop 15 points. That left them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child.
5. You are probably not as good as it as you think.
More studies confirm that most people think they are effective multitaskers, The reality is that less than 2% of people actually have the ability to multitask successfully. The next time you catch yourself multitasking assess your focus on both tasks. Are you really giving equal attention to both or is one on the back burner? Then check the quality of your outcome for both tasks. Did you retain information from both tasks? Where both error free? If you had focused on one task would it be done at a higher quality and in less time?
So what does this mean for you as a writer? It is time to consider the negative impacts multitasking may have on your writing and implement some positive changes. Here are a few guidelines to get you started on your road to multitasking recovery.
- Focus on one task at a time. Give it your full attention start to finish.
- Minimize distractions that will tempt you to multi-task. If you know that you will be tempted to multitask on your phone while writing it is smart to turn it off.
- Decide that if something is worth doing it is worth doing with all of your attention. If the task isn’t worth your full time and attention is it really worth doing?
- Have a plan for dealing with tasks that come up while you are writing. One solution is to jot down a quick note on your phone to deal with the task after you finish the one at hand.
- Don’t make the mistake of attempting to write and research at the same time. Block off a specific time to research and a specific time to write. Mixing the two is a recipe for using your time ineffectively. It also impacts your creativity because you are switching from right to left brain tasks.
- Be mindful. Try a mindfulness app, journal or book to help you get in the habit of being fully present in the moment
- Put away your phone. If you are like me, your phone is a huge source of multitasking tendencies.
Here are some links to studies, research, and articles that I gleaned information from to support this blog post.