THE BLOG
07/26/2016 10:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Multitasking Can Actually Make Us Less Productive

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Many people feel they must multitask because everybody else is multitasking, but this is partly because they are all interrupting each other so much. - Marilyn vos Savant

Pre-1965 the word multitasking did not even exist. Individuals took pride and care in their work and themselves.

Fast forward to present day and we can barely go out for dinner without picking up our cell phone every time it beeps. We have lost the very essence of being in the moment and enjoying the company we are in.

Multitasking today, in many business circles, seems to be a positive word; but I personally dislike the concept. I find that when I am trying to get multiple things completed at once, something slips. I forget things. I make mistakes. I feel tired. I am also spending extra time trying to refocus on where I was before I glanced at the phone. It all adds up.

I am less frazzled when I set my tasks out one at a time. They get done to completion without all the toing and froing. I perform better. I am happier. I am more rewarded with my work and more satisfied with my life.

If I stop to turn my attention to every message that pops up on my phone or inbox right away, I am ultimately putting everyone else's needs or agenda before mine, all the time. Like many people, when I do this, I run myself into the ground trying to do everything and be everything that is demanded of me.

What happened to self-love? We need to take as much care of our own needs as we do of our work or family needs.

What I often hear from my clients is that while they know it's best to take the time to be 100% present to the task at hand, sometimes they can't help feel a little guilty for not constantly checking messages from others. And that's something we need to change.

What happens when you multitask?

Multitasking not only affects the quality of the work you do, but it is possible that it can affect the brain's gray matter volume, which is associated with memory, decision-making and more. And while you may love the feeling of "action" during your day, your brain is struggling to keep up with all this cognitive change. Our lifestyle has changed since 1965, and it is affecting us more than we realize. 

Our brains are not designed for multitasking. We cannot do more than one task at a time. Instead of multi-tasking, we are task switching. You can liken your brain to a computer - the more windows and programs in operation, the less speed you have overall.

From a brain perspective, the more you are trying to do, the less brain bandwidth you have to focus on the latest in a series of tasks. You cannot possibly work or perform at your best.

The more you switch from one task to another, the more you are easily distracted. It becomes harder and harder to block out the irrelevant stimuli from around you because your brain is used to looking for and acting on similar external signals.

You lose the ability to listen. You become forgetful. Like a frantic juggler, you drop balls. And did I mention that your stress is increased by all this crazy activity going on in your overachieving, stress hormone producing brain?

I don't know about you, but my brain hurts just thinking about it.

We think we are saving time and achieving wonders with multitasking but in fact, research shows that "even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time."

It's time to make a change.

Let's get back to being present in everything we do. Each day you have is a gift.

Let's practice mindfulness and appreciation for where we are today - right at this moment. The world is beautiful.

Let's find some time to be alone. Allow your brain settle on one thought at a time. It's a skill your brain will need to relearn.

Let's turn off the phones, the Facebook messages, and the email notifications until we can fully commit to them. It is time to smile more.

Let's give up multitasking without the need justify it or explain ourselves. The results will speak for themselves.

Let's stop with all the craziness. Let's love ourselves and allow ourselves to flourish. Each and every day.

{photo: istock}