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The Power Of Doing Only One Thing

We, humans, assume we’re multi-tasking beings.


We, humans, assume we’re multi-tasking beings.

And thus we write content drafts, text our friends, reply to emails and check our Facebook feed, simultaneously. All the time.

Tell me you don’t do that.

I know, you do it.

Credits: giphy.com

Hell, even while reading this you’ve got multiple browser tabs open, haven’t you?

Let me guess: one of them is Gmail, other maybe Facebook or Twitter and a Google doc maybe.

Don’t worry or feel guilty. Everyone does it.

So did I. Until recently — when I realized why multi-tasking is NOT good for us, in the long run.

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And today, I’ll try to convince you Why You Should Quit Multi-tasking & concentrate on a single task at a point of time.

Our Brains aren’t designed to perform multiple tasks simultaneously

You’d say “Hey, I walk and eat a chocolate at the same time, is that wrong?”

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Nope. Read on, let me clarify:

Our brains aren’t meant to perform two or complex tasks at the same time.

By complex tasks I mean, working on an important project, checking out Facebook feed and replying to emails.

…or Driving while talking to a person on the phone.

You can eat a gum and walk at the same time. No problem with that.

I know, we can work on an important project and check-out Facebook feed simultaneously.

But, that’s exactly what we aren’t supposed to do.

According to Art Markman, cognitive psychologist and author of Smart Thinking

“The human brain doesn’t really multitask, what the human brain does is what I call time-sharing”

Effectively this means you can only concentrate on one task at a time and when other tasks seek attention you’ve to switch from your current task to the new task.

Switching between tasks involves a significant amount of cognitive cost

“In effect, you’ve got writer’s block briefly as you go from one task to another. You’ve got to (a) want to switch tasks, you’ve got to (b) make the switch and then you’ve got to © get warmed back up on what you’re doing”,

According to David E. Meyer, Professor at the University of Michigan and is Chair of the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience area of the Psychology Department.

These mental blocks between switching from one task to another could cost up to 40% of one’s productive time according to Meyer.

Now, that’s something grave.

The point of multi-tasking was trying to do more in less time, right?

We aren’t achieving that, it seems.

Multitasking can affect Your Focus

When you switch between tasks rigorously, like checking your email, it takes more than 60 seconds to switch back to your previous task. And not just that, you’ve lost your FOCUS.

The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways.

“But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once”

…said René Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University

Multitasking lowers Your IQ and Damage your Brain

According to Daniel J Levitan:

“When trying to concentrate on a task, an unread email in your inbox can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points”

According to a study at University of London cognitive multitasking led to a drop in IQ score by almost 15 points, a result equivalent to those who smoke Marijuana or stay up all night. This is equivalent to an IQ score of an 8 year old.

These damages were believed to be temporary, only until a study from University of Sussex revealed otherwise.

Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

All in all Multi-tasking doesn’t sound that “cool” now, does it?

If it still does, you ought to seriously consult a doctor.

credit: giphy.com

But researchers, since the dawn of our knowledge era have been saying “Multitasking ain’t good, boy”.

Studies from researches conducted 15–18 years ago still remains relevant and will continue to do so as we cannot rewire our brain to do something it can’t.

“We are under the impression that we have this brain that can do more than it often can,” in René Marois’ own words.

So, how do you fix it all?

“We’re designed for Singular tasking, and we got to stick to it”

In case you’re not into multi-tasking yet (which is highly unlikely), but in case, do not walk this path. You’re in the right direction.

Here are some things you can do to ensure you’re not consumed by multi-tasking:

  1. Create a prioritized to-do-list. You want a list which focuses getting the most important single-task done, in a set-period of time.
  2. Schedule your day. Believe me, this practice is very under-rated. Once you start actively using it you’ll realize how effective it can be.
  3. Get rid of distractions. When you’re trying to concentrate on your project, switch off your phone, block sites like Facebook, Twitter and others that consume time and you don’t need.
  4. Schedule time for distractions. As much as you got to avoid distractions, you need to reply to emails and check your Facebook feed, right? Why not do it in a separate allotted 30 to 45 minutes or so?
  5. Work in a remote space if possible. This might not be possible always, but as much as you can, this practice will help you focus on your work.
  6. Do similar tasks together. Okay, in many work environments multitasking might not be avoidable, so why not do all those tasks similar to each other, together?

“At any given time, FOCUS only on single, most-important task”

I write at GrowingMetrics about Blogging and Internet Marketing. Recently I’ve been reading and writing a lot about Productivity, Motivation and Self-Improvement. I’d LOVE to share best, free tips from around the web. Sign-up for the FREE stuff, if you’re interested. I loathe spam and promise to provide only the best content.

Further Reading: The Most Quick-Fire Way to Getting Motivated

Originally published at medium.com

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