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The Downside of Multitasking

The Downside of Multitasking

I’m not sure when multitasking became the golden standard to strive for, but some time when I was a teenager it became a badge of honor. The more diverted your attention, the more tasks you could accomplish and the more effective or efficient you were believed to be. Giving anything your undivided attention or choosing to do one thing at a time may have meant you were dropping the ball on other important areas of life. Oddly enough, we often medicate children for being unable to focus; a behavior I sincerely wonder wasn’t partially learned by watching the adults around them doing too many things at one time.

Is multitasking truly beneficial or in our best interest? I’m convinced that multitasking may have more cons than pros.

I often find myself starting several tasks at a time, feeling overwhelmed or under the gun, and rushing to finish each project with my heart pounding, running mentally, even physically, from task to task to task. I asked myself when did I start to work this way and why? What exactly is the benefit of multitasking? I guess the most obvious answer would be the illusion of completing more projects in less time. Sounds good but research has proven that moving from task to task actually slows you down and increases the odds of making mistakes. Our brain can truly only focus on one thing at a time so in an effort to get more done, we’re really shortchanging ourselves as well as the results we’re trying to create.

Multitasking is also very stressful which isn’t good for our health. Researchers have found that our heart rates increase when we multitask. Also, having our attention spread over many things at once actually reduces our short term memory, as well as our brain’s grey matter due to the production of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, because of the stress that multitasking can cause.

I wonder how it would feel, how effective I would be, if I chose to focus on a single task at a time instead; concentrating on the task at hand, engulfing my body, mind, and soul in what I was actually doing in a given moment. Could I really achieve a single goal at a time and be more productive and happier about what I’m doing and how I’m feeling during that time? Every time I use my time in that way the answer is a resounding yes!!

There are so many benefits to focusing on one task at a time.

1. First, you’ll not only be more effective, but you’ll also be more efficient. Giving something your undivided attention means that you’re more focused on the details of the task and less likely to miss something or make a mistake.

2. Second, your brain is not switching from one activity to the next and back again. So, you’re actually saving time by not having to refocus your attention or remember where you left off.

3. Another benefit is that greater productivity may mean greater fulfillment, actually making the process and completion of that task more enjoyable.

Monotasking doesn’t mean that your other projects won’t get accomplished, it just means that you’ll get them done, one at a time, without the feeling of being fragmented and harried while being more productive, present and engaged in the space you’re currently in and with the task you’re currently working on. The thought of being completely submerged in a single task brings a sense of relief to my mind, a relaxation to my body, and a satisfying smile to my face.

How about you? Are you multitasking and are you willing to try another approach?

This article previously appeared on Working Mothers.

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