Everyone is guilty of multitasking at some point in their lives. Opening a zillion tabs in Chrome, sending an email while listening to a podcast, or having seven programs up all doing different things at once.
Some ‘career gurus’ will tell you that multitasking is the key to being a successful employee or boss. And sometimes, they are right – but for 90% of people, multitasking isn’t doing two things at once. It’s doing two things poorly, and taking more time with them, than just doing one thing properly.
Humans are Made to Multitask… Right?
You’ve probably heard it in some YouTube guru’s info-dump. Humans are made to multitask. There is a ton of brain you aren’t using, so make sure you get the most out of it by focusing on multiple things!
Well, here’s the problem with that – they’re flat wrong.
A study done by neuroscientists (So serious, actual people that really know the brain) suggests that only about 2% of the human population can actually multitask effectively. That means that the other 98% or so are just trying and failing to be more productive.
Even Trying to Multitask Hurts You In The Long Run
If you struggle to focus on just one thing and constantly find yourself mindlessly multitasking – checking emails, responding to texts, etc – you’re going to find the idea of not multitasking hard to swallow.
The more we try and shift our brain from one idea to the other rapidly, the more it gets used to that. When we do this, it becomes harder and harder to focus on just one thing for any length of time. But that’s exactly what you need your brain to do; stop jumping around, and start focusing on a single thing.
More than one scientific study has been done on this concept, and it’s pretty much accepted by those who study it that your brain basically rewires itself to process a lot of different information. The problem is, your brain isn’t supposed to be doing this, so it’s trying to overwork itself and you’re going to get overloaded.
The results of one study? Those who multitasked more heavily actually were less productive and less able to focus when they really needed to. Those who were more willing to tackle one situation or problem at a time did better overall.
How Can You Change Your Brain?
If you’ve got the parallel processing thing going on in your brain, slowing it down can be a challenge. Don’t know if you have an issue? Try focusing on one task for an extended period of time, without reaching for your phone, your email, or another project to tinker with in the background.
If your mind can’t focus, you probably need to work on that.
Consider mindfulness as a way to train your brain. Yes, it sounds like a hippy solution but this isn’t a granola-eating option. The whole point of mindfulness training is to focus on the here and now of a moment or situation, which is exactly what you need to do when you only have one task in front of you.
Mindfulness isn’t about religion, or meditation, or even a belief system. It’s just a way of refocusing your mind and paying attention to it, your thoughts, and your actions.
If you can harness mindfulness in the workplace, your productivity will skyrocket and no longer will you have to jump from one project to the next, being scattered or overwhelmed. You will find yourself a better employee, a better boss, or a better business owner.