Do you take pride in the fact that you can manage researching for an office presentation, eating chips, checking Facebook and chatting with online friends, simultaneously? If your answer is in the affirmative then you are adept in multi-tasking.
In fact today, we have become used to multi-tasking as we manage a huge workload in shorter spans while managing our basic needs and social interactions. A simple layman’s definition of multitasking is “the execution of multiple tasks at the same time”. However, this seemingly optimum use of time and maximum use of our intelligence isn’t as great as it seems.
Gone are the days when we spent evenings going out for walks or simply relaxing our mind and body. Today there is an information overload as mobile; laptop and TV have become indispensable part of our life making us the new age juggling gurus.
Multitasking: The Cons
There is an existing theory that when there is an overload of information the brain registers all the information fed to it but cannot process it effectively. This leads to a gradual reduction of intelligence and operational skills. Multi-tasking is a major cause of this gradual decline in intelligence. For example a person cannot be expected to set up a party later in the evening and complete contracts at the same time. It is but logical that there will be something amiss in either of the endeavors, maybe even in both.
Multi-tasking is slowly eating away at us and we don’t even realize it. In fact we take pride in saying that we are multi –tasking individuals, we’re logged into Facebook chatting while we’re surfing online for the latest news and we’re shuffling through our playlists at the same time. We’re probably eating our dinner while we’re doing all this. It really seems mind boggling when put down on paper. So multi-tasking essentially has its own disadvantages and the sooner you realize this, the better. Multi-tasking is a huge cause of stress. Although multi-tasking has been deemed inefficient by most researchers, some are of the opinion that the urgency of multi-tasking can increase productivity. However this is short lived as the increased productive levels require more effort which triggers a physiological stress response, often hindering focus and causing health problems. Human mind works the best when it is focused on one train of thought.
Freud explored as much in his book ‘Psychopathology of everyday life’, where he states that losing focus onto a different stream while carrying on a conversation can make us forget facts which we would normally expect our memories to retain. You lose focus while multi-tasking as you find it difficult to concentrate. So while you think that multi-tasking helps you complete your jobs faster, it actually takes you longer to do the job. Multi-tasking creates a vicious cycle from which there is no escape. You jumble up your priorities and thus often fail to meet up to even short term goals. This leads to frustration as you try and multi-task to make up for the previous goals and try to achieve new ones as well.
Multi-tasking leads to attention and memory loss. You are prone to switch your attention between different tasks and as your focus wavers you do not retain as much in your memory. Thus multi-tasking is detrimental to attention and memory. Multi-tasking leads to poor cognitive performance. If we’re concentrating on more than one task the brain is constantly switching priorities. This overload of information leads to less information being registered, which in turn leads to a poor cognitive performance. Every time you shift between tasks the brain has to rearrange the priorities and re-focus on the new task at hand which in turn leads to loss of time and in turn loss of productivity.
The question that now arises is how to deal with the disadvantages of multi-tasking since you’re so used to doing it on a day to day basis. We have become so dependent on our cellular devices and tablets that we cannot focus on one track train of thoughts. What you can seek to do is minimize or control the disadvantages that that multi-tasking clearly has.
Some preventive measures would be:
• Prioritizing – Each morning you should prioritize your tasks and then set about to accomplish them.
• Start Early – You should get an early jump so you’re not hard pressed for time and have to resort to multi-tasking.
• Limit Distractions – Try and remove as much distracting influences as possible. For example if one is working on a computer, it would be best to close down unnecessary windows especially ones like Facebook, Twitter.
• Silence your Phone – Change the settings of the phone to silent so the constant pinging of the notifications doesn’t create a distraction.
• Control the Workplace – Create a conducive work environment which enables you to focus on the task at hand, without any distraction.
This is how multitasking affects us badly so try to do one thing at a time, so that you are able to give your 100% to the task at hand.