Multitasking. We’ve all done it.
You talk to someone over dinner and you receive an email.
Heck, you’re not going to wait until the dinner is over to see who it is.
You take your phone out and listen to the rest of the conversation while you’re typing the first draft of your answer.
Sure, the people at the table might consider you rude for answering your emails during dinner, but this is only a harmless example of how multitasking can affect your life.
Our brains are bombarded with information every day.
Nowadays, you can’t do a thing at a time.
You chat on the phone while you walk, text while you drive, and watch the news while you cook.
But recent research shows that you’re not doing anyone a favor by multitasking all day long.
Not for your boss, not for your family, and definitely not for yourself.
Here is a list of 14 reasons why you should stop multitasking and do only one thing at a time.
Before we go ahead and get started, I wanted to let you know I researched and assembled 47 scientifically-backed ways to achieve laser-like focus, accelerate learning, sharpen memory, & boost mental energy.
Want to check out these tips? Download my free guide “Boost Your Brain Power” here.
- Humans Do Not Actually “Multitask”
We’re not actually multitasking.
We might believe we do, and we can engage in multiple tasks at once, but our brain actually switches from one task to another.
When it comes down to attention, your brain does not have an infinite amount of it, and it can only handle so much.
To understand this concept, think of your attention as a pie chart.
What you’re actively doing is the larger slice of the pie.
When your attention switches to some other task, the larger slice moves across the chart, but there are still smaller slices left.
Your focus is on only one task, and every time you switch tasks, the thing you were doing goes in the background but it doesn’t get solved.
For your brain, only the large slice is important.
Sure, you can do several things at once, but some of them have to be automatic behaviors such as walking or chewing gum if you want to do them properly.
And the bad thing is, moving back and forth from one task to another wastes your productivity.
Your brain pays more attention to switching your attention from one thing to another, and it never gets “in the zone” for any of the activities you’re trying to accomplish. (1)
- Multitasking Is Actually Slowing You Down
Most of the people who multitask do it because they believe they’re actually saving time.
Well, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t save time.
In fact, it will take you longer to complete two tasks simultaneously than to do each of them separately.
And the curious thing is that this applies to automatic behaviors as well.
In a study conducted in 2008, drivers who were chatting on their phone took longer to reach their destination than those who drove without talking.
Researchers believe that this might happen because your brain has a tendency to split up tasks into batches.
If the tasks in the batch are similar, your brain will enter a specific mindset and complete them easier.
If the tasks are different, your attention is split, and your brain takes longer to focus on each individual task.
- You Make Mistakes While Multitasking
Imagine this scenario – you’re in a hurry to get to work, you’re getting dressed while taking on the phone to one of your colleagues to let them know you’ll be running late, you get out of the door in a rush just to remember you forgot your keys, or laptop, or backpack, or whatever.
Well, researchers estimate that switching between tasks causes a 40% loss of productivity.
Not only that, but when you’re attention switches from one task to another, you can make errors.
These errors happen more frequently when you’re involved in tasks that require a lot of critical thinking.
A study conducted in 2010 found that most humans are capable of handling two complicated tasks without too much trouble because the two hemispheres of our brain divide the responsibility equally between them.
When a third task is added – like remembering to grab your laptop in our example – your frontal cortex can be overwhelmed so you will make more mistakes. (3)
- Multitasking Is Stressful
One of the problems with being connected to your email at all times is that you can be contacted at all times.
Researchers measured the heart rates of employees who had constant access to their office emails and compared them with those of employees who did not have access to their emails.
Employees who could receive their emails when they weren’t at work had elevated heart rates because they were in a constant state of “high alert”.
They knew work could contact them every minute, so they were stressed about it.
Make sure you disconnect from work when you’re not there.
This will lower your stress levels and improve your motivation. (4)
- Multitasking Can Have Psychological Consequences
So, you have a big exam you’re supposed to be studying for, but your favorite series is on.
Naturally, you decide to study while you’re watching the series – what could go wrong with that, eh?
Well, as was to be expected, your exam scores came in, and they weren’t so good.
Now, you’re aware you could have done better on the exam only if you would have studied instead of watching TV, so you’re remorseful and blame yourself for the weak result.
This behavior can trigger a lot of stress in your brain, and it can even lead to serious conditions such as self-esteem issues and depression. (5)
- Multitasking Makes You Miss Out On Things
Multitasking might seem efficient to most of us, but studies show that we might miss what’s right in front of us while we multitask.
Forget the old expression that says one couldn’t see the forest for the threes.
That expression has been upgraded.
It’s now called “you couldn’t see the clown riding a unicycle because you were talking on your phone”. Wait, what?
Well, this might seem like something taken out of a bad comedy movie, but it’s unfortunately true.
For this specific experiment, researchers had a clown ride a unicycle in the middle of a college campus.
So far, so good.
The bad part is that 75% of the college students who were talking on their cell phones failed to see the clown who was right in front of them.
Researchers call this behavior “inattentional blindness”, and they have a solid explanation for it.
The people who were talking on their phones didn’t see the clown because their brain, while technically looking at their surroundings, was not registering anything because it was already too busy to do so. (6)
- Multitasking Might Hurt Your Brain
Scientists have long believed that multitasking causes a slight cognitive impairment, but they thought the impairment was only temporary.
Unfortunately, a recent study done in the UK compared the MRI scans of people who spent a lot of time on multiple devices to those who did not.
Keep in mind that for this study, researchers considered that texting while watching TV was multitasking on different devices.
Researchers found out that the people who were considered high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex of their brain.
This region of the brain is responsible for cognitive and emotional control, and empathy.
This might not seem like a big problem to some, but it really is.
The cingulate cortex is a key brain region for your emotional intelligence.
90% of the top performers that participated in a study had high emotional intelligence levels.
So every time you want to multitask, keep in mind that you’re not only lowering your productivity at that moment, you might also be damaging an area of your brain that can be critical to your success. (7)
- Multitasking Can Hurt Your Relationships
Multitasking can harm your relationship more than you imagined.
Recent studies show that cell phones (not to mention social media platforms) have a negative impact on close relationships.
In a study conducted in the UK, people who had a personal conversation when a cell phone was nearby reported a lower relationship quality and had less trust for their conversation partner.
The interesting detail is that it didn’t even matter if the cell phone was actually used or not.
Just the presence of the cell phone made people believe that their partner was less empathetic regarding their concerns.
Other studies revealed that cell phones distract our attention from the present (check out point 6 in the list).
This can be a serious problem for couples, as 3 out of 5 adults in the US admit that they don’t go more than an hour without checking their gadgets.
It’s true that social media platforms and cell phones offer us the possibility to connect with friends and family, but the connections are weak and they’re not the equivalent of face-to-face talks.
So next time you see your significant other make sure both of you set aside your smartphones for at least 10 minutes and just talk to each other.
It might rekindle your relationship. (8)
- Multitasking Might Lead To Overeating
Eating without listening to the news, scrolling through your news feed, or watching your favorite series can be boring.
But the alternative might be worse. Studies have shown that people who are distracted while they’re eating can prevent their brain from realizing they’ve eaten enough.
Because your brain doesn’t register you’ve eaten enough, you might be tempted to keep eating, and you might even want to eat again only a short while later.
And that’s not even the worst part.
The worst part is that distracted parent doesn’t pay attention to their children when they’re eating, so the children do not learn healthy table habits such as stopping eating when they’ve had enough. (9)
- Multitasking Can Affect Parent – Children Relationships
So you’re out for lunch with your kids.
You receive an email and you take your smartphone out and start drafting an answer.
You’re not really paying attention to your kids, are you?
Well, according to some studies, this is a dangerous behavior.
Sure, your kids are well-mannered and they won’t make a scene in the restaurant, but this should be the least of your worries.
Distracted parents are not paying attention to their children, which is exactly the one thing they should be doing.
Thus, they won’t notice their concerns or their interests in a conversation.
Furthermore, you might even set a bad example for your children.
Not only will you fail to teach them dining etiquette and healthy table habits, but you might also determine them to multitask as well.
So the next time you want to have a conversation with your children and notice they’re not paying attention to you because they’re playing on their phones or texting, don’t get upset.
They learned how to multi-task from you, after all.
- Multitasking Might Harm Your Creativity
Multitasking really takes a toll on your brain.
So, in order to do everything you want, the brain uses its “working memory”.
The working memory holds the information available for processing for a time, and it’s very important in your decision-making process and your behavior.
However, your working memory is not unlimited. On the contrary, it’s pretty restrictive in terms of capacity.
And when you use up all the working memory available, your brain will have a hard time focusing, harming your performance and efficiency.
One of the first things you lose is your ability to think creatively.
This can be pretty serious, as you won’t be able to think about new ways to tackle a problem, so you might end up bashing your head against it until you run out of energy.
This is also the reason we have those “AHA!” moments after we take our minds off a certain task or problem, or when we spend a few minutes daydreaming.
Our working memory discards some of the previously stored information, and your creative thinking gets back into the game. (11)
- Multitasking Can Harm Your Organizing Skills
People are more efficient when they’re organized.
And we’re not talking about the ability to find the stapler when you need it.
People who are organized know what they have to accomplish each day, so they know which one of those things should be done first, which one should follow, and so on.
This is an important skill for people who run large businesses, and for those who activate in highly competitive fields.
A multitasker is almost the opposite of an organizer.
Instead of handling one single task at a time to make sure everything runs smoothly, the multitasker is trying to handle multiple tasks at once.
And the problem is, when you’re trying to accomplish everything at once, your brain is predisposed to distraction.
Your attention and concentration are so stretched, everything new will seem nice and interesting.
- Multitasking Can Lower Your IQ
Yes, this title basically says that multitasking can make you dumber.
A study showed that the participants in their study experienced a decline in their IQ levels when they were multitasking.
In fact, the decline was so severe, it was similar to what you would experience after smoking pot or after staying up all night.
The IQ of multitasking people dropped to the level of an average 8-year-old. (13)
- Multitasking Can Be Dangerous
One of the disadvantages of being connected to the Internet through our smartphones is that we’re tempted to use them in the worst possible moments.
People talk on their phones and text while they drive, they’re immersed in their phone screens when they’re walking, and they’re listening to loud music when they’re crossing the road.
While you’re doing all of these things, your brain is paying attention to them.
That’s why you sometimes hit the brakes a little too late, hit your feet in stairs while you’re walking or cross the road without looking both ways.
It might not seem like a dangerous activity, but talking on the phone while driving can have a similar effect on your brain as being slightly drunk.
Additionally, one out of five teenagers who end up in emergency rooms because they were hit by a car admit they were using their smartphones at the time. (14)