We all do it – texting while walking, or worse – driving, scrolling through social media while in a lecture or chatting on the phone while watching TV. In today’s hyperconnected, busy and digital world, doing one thing at a time does not seem like the norm. Multitasking has become the new normal.
The term ‘multitasking’ was coined in 1965 by IBM in a report that endorsed its latest computer model. Research has shown that people are not really multitasking but rather ‘switch-tasking’.
Here are five reasons you should reconsider multitasking the next time you have something important to do:
• You become tired: Rather than multitask, you quickly switch between one task and the next. This uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, making you feel more tired more quickly than if you paid sustained attention to one thing at a time.
• You make mistakes: Studies have found that the human brain can handle two complicated tasks without much of a problem – it divides the responsibility of each task between the two hemispheres of the brain. However, by adding a third task, you overwhelm the frontal cortex and increase the number of mistakes you make. Additionally, experts estimate that you have a 40% loss in productivity if you switch between tasks.
• It dampens your creativity: Multitasking requires a lot of ‘working memory’ or temporary brain storage. Too much focus can harm performance on creative problem-solving tasks as the working memory has very little capacity available due to multitasking.
• You miss out on life: ‘Inattentional blindness’ is what people suffer from when they are so busy doing two things at once that they don’t even see obvious things right in front of them.
• It lowers your work quality and efficiency: Multitasking reduces the efficiency and quality of your work because it makes it more difficult to organise thoughts and filter out irrelevant information. Research by the University of London showed that subjects experienced a significant IQ drop while multitasking on various cognitive tasks.