Saturday, 22 March 2014

Single-tasking vs. Multitasking: Why Focussing On One Task Is Better

For years and years (and years) societies--as in, we--have conditioned our brains to believe in multitasking.

I accept multi-tasking to be the sole path to heaven and I will travel upon it for my entire life or else I will, quite literally, go to hell--that sorta thing.  Not really, but you get my point, donchya?

For most of us, multitasking-ness is Godliness.  Don't deny it.  The reason?  "Oh, so-and-so can text, talk on the phone, participate in a video conference, put the laundry in the dryer and make sure the tea isn't boiling over, all at the same time!  I wish I could be more like her, maybe then I would have more time to sleep!"

But have you really seen anyone ever do all that correctly, without making mistakes?  Ever?

In an article by Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., she elaborates on the notion the society as a collective whole has about multitasking: " the more you can do at once, the more expertly intelligent and efficient you are."  

This notion, needless to say, is absolute scientifically-unaccounted-for hogwash (for lack of a better word, like....gibberish).

For example, a study by researchers at Ohio State University had college students record the amount of time they spent using media and on other activities for 28 days.  The findings reported that students, after multitasking, felt emotionally satisfied even if they had not been paying adequate attention to the task at hand.

"They felt satisfied not because they were effective at studying, but because the addition of TV made the studying entertaining.  The combination of the activities accounts for the good feelings obtained," Zhen Wang, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, has said.

Students also reported that multitasking helped them to fulfill their emotional needs, which, oddly enough, were needs they hadn't wanted to satisfy in the first place.

Why Multitasking Is Not Good

Heavy multitasking does, in fact, hurt your brain and may even cause a temporary dip of 15 points in your IQ.  Multitaskers are prone to make 50% more mistakes in their work than they would if they were focussing on their work without multitasking.  Additionally, multitasking also costs the global economy an estimated $450 billion annually.  Chronic multitaskers also have increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can damage the memory region of the brain (the cerebral cortex, among other parts).

However, instead of looking at the downsides of multitasking, let's focus on the pros of single-tasking.

Why Single-Tasking Is Better

Consistent single-tasking ensures that your brain retains its sharpness and ability to form memories late into your life.  Studies show that single-tasking helps us to retain sound decision-making abilities long into our senior years.

Single-tasking also results in a drop in stress levels, and increased mindfulness (since you're not focussing on that e-mail you just wrote ten minutes ago while you were playing Minesweeper, wondering if you'd made a spelling mistake).  It also helps you to get more downtime for yourself, since you're not worrying about doing anything wrong, because it's almost impossible to get distracted when you're single-tasking.  

It'll make you realize the value of time, and you'll be able to spend more time with your family and close friends, and who doesn't want that?

And Lastly....Take action!

Most of us already know all of this stuff and we're just waiting for some 21st-century-Moses to smack us in the backside and say,"Oi, wake up!  Single-tasking will prevent the apocalypse! Single-task, single-task and single-task only!"

Resist temptation!  Avoid interruption!  Start single-tasking and stop!  Don't wait to read till the end of this blog post!  See you next time!  Now go, go, gooooo! 

P.S. I've added Disqus comments on here.  Please click on the time-stamp near the end of the post to comment.  (If you don't have a Disqus account, you can still comment as a guest with a custom name.) Thank you!

~ migration.

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