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I’ve Had It with Multitasking!

November 12, 2018|Posted in: Uncategorized

I swear on my grandmother’s china, if my boss goes off on me about “multitasking” one more time, I am going to blow up like a hamster in a microwave. (And no, I’m not worried about him reading this. One, he has no idea this site exists, and two, the man requires a PowerPoint deck, GPS, and a Sherpa just to check his email … Google is a bit beyond him.)

Having said that, he is the MASTER of multitasking. If you don’t believe it, just ask him: he’ll tell you about it for hours. And if you aren’t multitasking to his definition, well, he’ll tell you that, too. Trust me on this.

Today he calls me on my way home from work, asking if I read the file that showed up in my Dropbox at 4:49 this afternoon. No, I say; I’ll read it first thing in the morning (I almost said I would come in early to read it, but we ALL know that ain’t gonna happen. I’m about as much of a “Morning Person” as Dracula.)

But it’s important, he tells me. So–because I’m a wimp–I tell him I’ll read it tonight, but right now I am heading to the gym.

Well, can’t you read it on the treadmill or something? You know, MULTITASK?

Grrrrrr …

OK, first: an entrepreneur I really respect put my “gym attitude” into words better than I ever could: “Exercise is like a reset button for my stress.” It’s like my own little time-out: it helps me get my focus back. So trying to do work at the same time kind of defeats the purpose.

And second, MULTITASKING IS A MYTH! It is! Research by the American Psychological Association has more or less proven that what we call multitasking is in reality both inefficient and ultimately ineffective.

In other words, we may be doing more, but we’re not getting more done.

According to the report, the problem shows up when you’re switching from one task to another. It may feel seamless, but it really isn’t: switching projects creates this internal time lag in your noggin. Your brain basically  has to dump whatever it’s working on, reset, then try to focus to the new project.

Researchers say that for more for complex tasks, taking as much as 40 percent more time than it would take to complete one task before moving on. That means our attempts to get more done by multitasking are backfiring. Ironically, the thing we do to decrease stress is, more than anything else, stressing us out more.

To make matters worse, you mind can’t totally focus on the current project, because it’s still trying to remember bits and pieces from the previous project : “I need to pay the electric bill, but I have to remember to make sure my paycheck was direct deposited first, or that check will bounce.”

Since you’re not fully engaged in any one thing, your brain starts expecting you to switch tasks again–meaning you’re even LESS engaged with your current project. It’s like going through a haunted house: after the third zombie has jumped out of the shadows and scared you, you can barely concentrate on your next step, right? You’re listening for any hint, watching for any shadow that might be another ghoul.

When you’re task-jumping, your brain even anticipating–if not actively looking for–the next change. That’s why you become more easily distracted the more projects you have going at one time. Your mind is saying to itself “Better not get too wrapped up in this … gonna have to jump back to that main project any second.”

Studies show that the human brain wasn’t really designed for multitasking. You lose your ability to focus. You become forgetful. You become–you guessed it–even more stressed.

I know it seems contradictory, but I have learned that I can get more done by not trying to do too much at once. I’ve also come to understand that unreleased frustration just builds until it explodes. Right now I take my frustrations out on a heavy bag two or three times a week, but without that, I’d have to take it out on something else, Mr. Boss.

Not threatening. Just sayin’.