Lifestyle

Stop Trying to Multitask (You Suck at it) & Learn How to Unitask

We all have the same hours in a day as Beyonce, right? So maybe you’re tempted to be super productive and efficient and multitask to get things done and still wake up looking amazing. In reality, our brains don’t really do two things at once effectively. Instead, we switch quickly between tasks, making it difficult to focus and give our full attention to anything. For most of us, attmepting to multitask creates a commotion of information in our brains, resulting in a loss of cognitive control that shows up as silly mistakes in a project or car accidents when texting. René Marois, PhD, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Vanderbilt University says this is due to “…a kind of bottleneck in the prefrontal cortex of the brain that forces people to address problems one after the other. This explains why previous data shows brain activity going down instead of up with each new challenge—it’s like a mental traffic jam.”

Even worse, a study from Standford University found that in comparison with those who rarely multitask, heavy multitaskers have poorer memory, more difficulty switching tasks, and are worse at filtering out irrelevant information. It’s almost as if we train ourselves to become more distracted by constantly shifting our attention. Besides that, trying to do too many things at once amps up our stress levels – making us feel overwhelmed, drained and frazzled.

So how do we become more efficient without falling prey to our brains turning to mush? Learn how to unitask:

* Block off as many sources of distraction as possible when you are working on something important. Shut your office door, turn off the phone and turn off email notifications.

* Every time you go to check your email or take a call when you’re actually supposed to be doing something else, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Focus your attention back to what you’re supposed to be doing.

* Plan your day in blocks. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, and doing research.

*  If you know you have an important memo to write or a big decision to make, schedule time on your calendar to devote all of your attention to that one task.

* Clear your desk. If it’s messy and you happen to catch a glimpse of some paperwork or a post-it note with a reminder, you might be tempted to focus some of your attention on those things, as well.

* Simply practicing single-tasking over time can help you to better focus and weed out distractions.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to be more like Beyonce, but maybe with a little more focus on each task at hand you can get just a little bit closer every single day (at least that’s my plan).

2 Comments

  1. Love this! I know someone who is a horrible multitasker. The other day it took this person 8 hours to do something, whereas I believe that if they just did everything one by one it probably would have taken only a few hours. However, I just met this person though so maybe they are just slow to begin with 😛

  2. I completely agree but know that I too multitask too much! I was actually reading a cool infographics about it yesterday! http://dailyinfographic.com/the-high-cost-of-multitasking-infographic

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