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Why There Is No Such Thing as Efficient Multitasking

Multitasking_400Simply put: Your brain is not wired to do multiple things at once. Find out why, and stop the insanity. From Make Your Brain Smarter.

I spent the first stage of my career juggling multiple tasks at the same time, thinking I was accomplishing everything at lightning speed and with the greatest efficiency. However, with more experience and knowledge of how the brain works, I learned that multitasking was one of the most toxic things I was doing to rob my brain of energy and high mental performance.

Yes, there are seemingly positive benefits to multitasking:

• Immediate access to massive amounts of information
• Greater input from multiple sources
• Ability to work faster
• Enhanced capacity to respond to more people in less time
• Being allowed to do more at the same time

But we have to stop and ask ourselves: What is our addiction to multitasking costing us? I asked myself this question years ago, and the answer I found changed my life forever.

Research has shown that if we counted all of the time we spend doing various tasks simultaneously, we’d actually be working an impossible forty-six hour day and a 322-hour week, instead of our rampant 24/7. No wonder we are so brain fatigued all day! Multitasking is bad for your brain and actually weakens your higher-order thinking capacity. Cognitive testing and brain imaging research reveals that multitasking causes

• shallower and less focused thinking;
• increased errors; and
• a dramatic negative decrease on mental processing.

Think about the impact of multitasking and frequent interruptions to task performance:

• High mental productivity requires periods of single-minded tasking.
• The concept of doing one thing at a time is not being rewarded in the workplace, at home, by individuals, or by bosses.
• On average, we work for a total of only three minutes with laser focus, with no multitasking or interruptions.
• Once interrupted, it takes, on average, twenty minutes to return to the original task.
• In total, adding the time we are distracted and the time it takes us to return to the original critical task to complete it equals 2.1 hours! If only we could recoup all that time!

The lost time is not the only major cost. Multitasking actually makes us sick. It leads to a buildup of cortisol, the stress hormone that decreases our memory and contributes to increased brain cell death. Some scientists have even suggested that a buildup of stress and elevated cortisol levels is a major contributor to pathological conditions such as dementia.

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