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Look at the guy above. He looks so confident in his ability to effectively do 15 things at one time. But, the fact is, “multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth,” as detailed by Dr. John J. Medina in his book, “Brain Rules.” He goes on to say that, “businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes.” Basically, we’ve created this myth to accommodate our ever-expanding and often overwhelming lives, leading many to believe that they can “do it all” and nothing suffers. This is scientifically proven to be wrong. In fact, an article in Fast Company Magazine, What Multitasking Does to Your Brain, explains how the more you multitask the less proficient you actually become at multitasking.
In some ways our brains are still very limited, in that they cannot efficiently focus on multiple tasks at the same time. For example, whenever I switch from one task to another, even if just to look at my phone in the middle of writing this piece, my mind is like a train and has to slow down, switch tracks, then speed up again as I focus on my phone. When I go back to writing, my mind slows down, switches tracks, and gains speed as I refocus on writing. Of course this is all happening at a relatively fast pace (and much faster than switching tracks on the NYC subway), but it does dramatically slow down my overall productivity.
So, how do we keep the brain-train moving at a steady clip? I find that I am more productive when I turn off my email, phone, and all other distractions while writing. Granted there are times when I can only stay in a writing-mindset for 15-20 minutes before I give into an urge for another glass of water, a bathroom break, or a quick glance at Facebook or Instagram, but it’s still a whole lot better than switching tracks every minute or two. There will always be distractions (bosses, coworkers, kids), but half the battle is just accepting that we are less productive when trying to engage in all of these distractions at once. It’s when we own that fact and create guidelines to help us to better focus on one task at a time, then we can make it into a habit which will eventually help that brain-train to start flying full speed ahead.
Have a beautiful week!