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Are You Good at Multitasking? No, you are not, nor should you be!

focus multitasking Feb 03, 2020

In today's episode, we are going to shed some light on multitasking. You might be tired of hearing about multitasking, and monotasking is getting a little blase. If you are like me, repetition is necessary. I wear the badge of honor when it comes to multitasking. 

In the past 30 years, any interview I had, when asked what my three top skills were, multitasking was always one of them. As I get older, I still think that I do well when it comes to multitasking. However, I see I don't get as much done as I used to.  

Often there are distractions, mind-wandering, and more often than not, my top three tasks on my to-do list were not completed. I now know that those top three are the three that move the needle. I must prioritize my top three tasks. Multitasking is a thing of the past. The new cool kids, slow down, get more done, are more accurate, down goes the stress, and up goes the productivity.  

Does it sound like you need a dose of that? Or, do you believe you are one of the chosen ones and are a great multitasker? Stay tuned! Multitasking is not fun. Most of us are endlessly and unsuccessfully trying to make the needle move.  

Intro

Hey there! Alexa Z here! First, let me start off by saying if you are driving, walking, washing dishes, folding towels, and also listening to me, that's okay. You can do rote tasks in multiples. My motto is to keep it simple. Let's make this short and sweet, so you can go forth and get stuff done. Plus, facts are facts; you can't argue how the brain works.  

When you are splitting your resources or your attention on multiple things, you start to slide down the slippery slope to inaccuracies. Multitasking isn't doing multiple things at the same time. It's content switching. The brain does not like to go forward to do one task; then, when you start another task, you have to put your brain in reverse. It may just be for a split second, put your mind in reverse, now forward to the next task. Back-up, go forward, back-up, go forward. This back and forth causes the brain to become exhausted, resulting in a 50% error rate, and it takes twice as long to complete a task.  

Have you heard of the saying, "if you want something done, ask a busy person"? I do agree, but now I have reformated that thought. Asking a busy person is fine as long as they move slowly, not sloth-like but undistracted from task to task. 

Our brain is never doing two things at the same time; the mind is merely switching back and forth. As you switch back in forth, there is a residue that is left, which causes your brain to be unclear. When have you multitask for an entire day and felt great? Your brain has a process. For example, you want ice cream. The anterior part of your brain sets that goal; the posterior part of the prefrontal brain helps the rest of you go to the freezer and get the ice cream. That might be a silly example, but imagine that your brain is going through that process with important tasks. Your brain is continually setting goals and processing how to get it done in multiple fashions. 

We get such a high when checking things off of our to-do list. Let's use our electronic devices as an example. We have multiple tabs opened, email, instant messenger, and we are working on a task. We don't have a plan. If you are on vacation and have some work you have to address, most likely, you create a plan to make sure that you still spend time and are present with your family while taking care of responsibility for your job. You might set a specific time to check your emails once a day so that you are not distracted while doing activities with your family. When you set a particular time to check on your emails, you can focus and get through them much more quickly than if you had been checking your email throughout the day. When you always check your email, your mind wanders, and you end up on Instagram, Facebook, etc. Your mind is wandering 47% of the time, switching tasks constantly, and you wonder why you are not getting any task completed. It has been said that you forget 1 out of 3 tasks.  

Have you ever learned to juggle? It is very challenging. Juggling is a lot like mindfulness. As you switch and grab the different objects, you must concentrate on one object to catch and toss it before the next object comes. I want to learn to juggle as it is an excellent mindfulness practice.  

What is effected by multitasking? Everything! Multitasking decreases accuracy, crushes your creative thinking, you become anxious, it hurts short-term memory, and time is lost. 

Exercise: Time yourself

  1. Write, "I can multitask." 
  2. Stop
  3. Write, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13."  
  4. Stop
  5. Write both "I can multitask" and "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13." together but go back and forth from "I can multitask" and the number sequence for each character. For example, write "I" in one line, then "1" below it, back and write "c," and back down write "2"...

This activity shows that multitasking does not help you get tasks done quicker or accurately. 

How does meditation help with multitasking? Meditation trains your brain to focus on one thing at a time. When you meditate, you might use one of the following to focus on: breath, mantra, or your body. The brain and body are working together. It is now scientifically known that we have a body, mind, and energy system. It is a beautiful feeling when they are in sync. Meditation trains your brain to ignore distractions. While meditating, you can focus on your breath, notice the distraction, and return to your breath. Maintaining a regular meditation practice helps your neuropathways, reactivity, and makes doing multiple tasks much more manageable.  

Keep up with your daily meditation and notice how much you get done. Go with monotasking and get rid of multitasking.  

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