Given the new normal, many of us find that we are managing our children's eLearning while hopping on a conference call while opening the back door for our barking dog to go outside.
Any of this sound familiar? How is it working out for you? The fact is, while many of us tout our superhuman multitasking skills, they’re nothing to brag about. Only 2 percent of the population can claim a true multitasker title, but for the rest of us, productivity—and/or quality—goes out the window when we do multiple things at once.1 For that special 2 percent, it seems genetics play a role in the ability to work on many tasks at the same time, using both sides of the brain, without sacrificing efficiency or quality.2
What we think happens.
For the other 98 percent, we simply believe multitasking exists; that we are able to work effectively on multiple tasks at the same time. We keep many efforts in motion at once and feel as if we can take on the world, but in reality, our brains are making a hard switch back and forth between tasks in order to manage them all.3
What really happens.
Research shows we’re nowhere as close to superhuman as we think. In one study that looked at the MRIs of people in a driving simulation, the simple introduction of listening to something while driving caused the amount of attention put toward driving to decrease by a whopping 37 percent.4 During multitasking, the brain is forced to make a choice about which information to process and productivity suffers, sometimes in dangerous ways.5
Or maybe you’re working on an important project and you hear the elusive ding announcing an email has arrived. It won’t hurt to look, right? Wrong. The quick change in your attention veers your brain way off track and efficiency plummets. Returning focus to the original task can take the brain an average of 15 minutes.6 And that’s just an email! What happens to our productivity when we continually take small breaks to check in with social media? It’s just not worth it.
Manage, don’t multitask.
For those of us who can’t claim superhuman multitasking abilities, there are ways to improve our time and effort management to avoid multitasking and stay focused on top priorities.
1Greenwald, M., & Greenwald, M. (2018, October 11). 15 Signs You're a "Supertasker". Retrieved from https://bestlifeonline.com/supertasker/link opens in a new window
2, 4 Gupta, Dr. Sanjay. "Your brain on multitasking." CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Aug. 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.
3, 5, 6 Atchley, Paul. "You Can't Multitask, So Stop Trying." Harvard Business Review. N.p., 23 July 2014. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.
7-11 Ishak, Raven. "11 Ways To Avoid Multitasking & Focus More Each Day." Bustle. Bustle, 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.