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Multitasking is Task-Switching

Don’t we all do it? Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner and making telephone calls while driving or walking on the road?

In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, wasteful, and is considered out of fashion.

We think, as amazing multitaskers, we are great achievers! Wow!

We pat ourselves, and even show off, on and off social media that we can multitask and do many things simultaneously.

You think that you can concentrate and do a number of tasks simultaneously, you can get more productive and get your tasks done faster?

I have been a proud multitasker for over 4 decades. It was in 2014 when Col Nandu Warrior, in a workshop, made a statement, “The human brain is not capable of multitasking.” I vehemently disagreed and argued. I was proud of doing and achieving more than my peers and was often complimented for it. However, it left a doubt in my mind, and considering his knowledge and the credibility he enjoyed, I decided to check it out. My in-depth study that followed, made me realize that I had been a victim of this MYTH for over forty years.

The truth I discovered is so different. Research shows that multitasking does not make us half as efficient as we like to believe.

The hard fact is that human beings cannot multitask in the true sense. Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid  states, “What we call multitasking is actually task- switching.” When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” he says.

Let me share this wisdom with you with 9 strong reasons why you should stop indulging in multitasking.

1. Multitasking can damage your brain.

Have you experienced writing emails or a serious proposal during a meeting or while attending a webinar? You’re asking your brain to split its attention and it is not wired for that. For the brain, it is cognitive overload, and it dulls the brain and it retards our response time.

2. Multitasking makes you less productive.

In this act of task-switching the brain consumes more time to switch tasks than the total time one would take if you concentrate on one at a time. Studies have revealed that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.

3. Multitasking makes you dumb.

Although that may sound somewhat harsh, the fact is that repeated exposure to multitasking adversely affects your alertness and even intelligence.

4. Multitasking can even weaken your memory.

Frequent task-switching is can affect your memory cells negatively.  When you are juggling two different activities, you cannot be paying proper attention to any one of them. So whatever you are doing or learning, you will not be able to recollect it properly later.

5. Multitasking makes you prone to errors. 

According to Weinschenk, “you make more errors when you switch than if you do one task at a time. If the tasks are complex then these time and error penalties multiply.” Multitasking itself is not as harmful as cutting corners due to the pressures of working against time.

6. Multitasking Kills Your Creativity.

While multitasking, your attention hops from one problem to another. This makes you lose focus and concentration at the tasks at hand. It is quite possible to work on a few similar tasks at one time, when it comes to serious problem-solving, it’s a big challenge. The concentration suffers affecting your creative instincts.

7. Multitasking Causes Anxiety.

A major disadvantage of multitasking is the feeling of anxiety which is the result of frequent loss of concentration. The symptoms of interrupted work can range from psychological to even physical.

8. Multitasking is a Waste of Time. 

Contrary to common belief, multitasking takes away a lot of time in attention-switching. The time spent on the reset is far greater than the usual perceived time-saving. That is a simple tragedy.

9. Multitasking lowers the quality of your work.

When you multitask, your work suffers, for sure. Research shows that multitasking reduces performance and makes project completion much longer.  I have experienced it many times. I have tried sending emails on my phone, in a meeting and ended up sending it to the wrong address or a different attachment went, as compared to the one I intended. And there are chances I missed some proceedings of the conference, in that duration, too.

In the present day and age, work pressures force us to multitask. And I think it’s okay if you indulge in it selectively and consciously keeping the above in mind.

Do not miss a series of 5 videos on Multitasking on my YouTube channel.


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