Multitasking is a rather controversial topic, in the sense that you can find contradicting viewpoints on it. Hence, some people think of it as a skill, allowing them to reach high productivity levels. However, the truth is that multitasking, in essence, is rarely productive – especially if you want to conduct tasks that entail your undivided attention.
So, is multitasking productive or not? Not really, actually, as research clearly points. In fact, we’d like to debunk the myth of multitasking, so that you can understand the downsides that come with this habit.
Task Switching Is Counter-Productive
There is extensive research pointing out that multitasking is actually counter-productive. But why is that? When you switch between tasks, it will take you more time to complete them than it would if you would be focusing on one thing at a time.
At the same time, you are predisposed to making errors when you are focusing your concentration on more than one thing. Evidently, in the case of complex tasks, the incidence of errors grows. But what is it that makes task switching so bad for your productivity?
You should know that when you move your attention from one thing to another, this process entails specific parts of the brain. For example, the pre-frontal cortex is implicated in moving on concentrating your attention, selecting the task you are doing at a given moment. In the meantime, the posterior parietal lobe is responsible for activating rules for every task you switch to. Moving on, the anterior cingulate gyrus keeps track of errors, whereas the pre-motor cortex prepares you for a new task.
As you can see, the process of multitasking places a lot of pressure on your brain activity. This is why many researchers outline that multitasking is detrimental to the nervous system. More specifically, task shifting can impair your productivity level by up to 40 percent.
Let’s think of a simple example: you are trying to study. While doing that, you have numerous distractions, such as your smartphone, social media, TV, or anything of the kind. Evidently, trying to divide your attention between these will harm your productivity. Hence, completing your task will take much longer than it would if you had no distractions whatsoever.
The Dangers of Multitasking Are Real
If you’re wondering: is multitasking bad, the answer is yes. Even if you do manage to complete your tasks, the quality of your work will suffer. Research clearly shows that multitasking impairs the worker’s performance, prolonging the projects, whilst making you anxious because your to-do list seems unchanged. Therefore, you might be under the impression that nothing gets done, even if you feel mentally exhausted. And this is what multitasking does to the brain – it exhausts it, as the process of task shifting is linked with stress and pressure.
The thing is that constantly interrupting your brain’s activity is associated with really high levels of stress. Chronic stress leads to cognitive overload, which is likely to dull the brain and its reaction times. Research states that multitasking is damaging to the brain – as people who have this habit feature lower brain density in the region of the brain that is liable for cognitive control, empathy, and emotional control.
This is really surprising, considering that people who multitask are believed to better control their focus when it comes to switching between tasks. Concurrently, they were less mentally organized.
However, the good thing is that you can address this damage by taking up activities that entail concentration. In other words, you can overcome this bad habit by concentrating your attention only on one thing at a time, whilst choosing a place that fosters concentration.
On a different note, experts suggest that multitasking could be particularly damaging to adolescents. That’s because, this time entails a lot of transformations in the nervous system, as important connections are being made. So, dividing your attention between tasks, as an adolescent, could have long-term, detrimental impact on the way in which these connections are formed, which is really worrying. And while additional research ought to be conducted to confirm these suppositions, teens are believed to be mostly impacted by multitasking.
To make matters worse, multitasking gives you a false impression of productivity. At first, when trying to juggle more things at once, you might feel proud of yourself, of the fact that you have so many things going on. Nevertheless, this is a false impression of productivity only. It makes you prone to experience a mix of emotions – such as self-satisfaction, self-esteem combined with guilt. The latter is triggered by the fact that you don’t finish your task as soon as you’d expected to.
Without a doubt, the myth of multitasking is really widespread, as most people convey it as a positive thing. As a result, it is often included as a positive trait in resumes. However, as opposed to engaging in numerous tasks at the same time, I would advise you to prioritize your tasks and direct your undivided attention to one task at a time.
This approach is far more beneficial when it comes to productivity. Still, since our lifestyles are so hectic and busy, we might believe that the key to shortening our lengthy to-do-lists is multitasking, but this is actually the thing that prevents us from reaching our highest potential. Multitasking exhausts your brain, affecting its cognitive functions and your concentration.
And while we are a nation of multitaskers – as we do more than one thing at a given time, changing for the better is possible. By getting rid of this habit, you can perform much better, and finish your tasks earlier. You wouldn’t believe how productive you can become if you simply focused on one thing. So, we would have to say that the dangers of multitasking shouldn’t be overlooked. Next time, as opposed to viewing multitasking as a positive trait, we should, instead, convey prioritizing as a necessary trait, as this can make the world of a difference, productivity-wise.