5 Ways Multitasking can hurt us and what to do instead
Key 5: Reduced Clutter

5 Ways Multitasking Can Hurt Us and What To Do Instead

Hello my dear Enchanted Ones,
You are told to, “Pay attention!”
You ask, “To what?”
And a good question it is.

Welcome to Week 20 of 2016 and our laser focus on Enchanted Key #5 Reduced Clutter. This week it’s all about mental clutter and how the Dragons call you a superhero when you multitask. The reality is that when we multitask, we are creating stress on our brains.

Many of us have been encouraged to multitask, being told that we were keeping our brains juicy and productive! Too much juice, though, makes mush.

You know that I talk the talk and walk the walk. However, training myself away from my nasty Dragon habits of multitasking is incredibly challenging! First off, like many of you, I grew up being taught that it was an accomplishment to be praised. Furthermore, multitasking was supported by everyone because, seemingly, so much could get done. I come from a long ancestral line of multitaskers that I admire. I’ve always gotten praised for it, why would I give it up?

I will tell you. In my quest to banish stress and create life as an enchanted journey, and share it with you, I’ve discovered that a ton of recent research has been published stating that multitasking is bad for you! Next will they say that sleep is detrimental, puppies are not cute, and that bathing should be done away with?

Dr. Amit Sood, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, focuses his energies on Resilient Living (aka life as an enchanted journey.) Here’s the neuroscience he reports behind what happens when we multitask.

According to Dr. Sood, we can perform several functions at once, like walking and chewing gum at the same time, but we can only successfully focus on one conscious thing at a time. After we’ve trained ourselves to perform a repetitive task that doesn’t require thinking anymore, (like brushing our teeth or tying our shoes) then that gets relegated to the subcortical network.

So what happens when we try to make our conscious mind multitask?

It causes mental fatigue, because it has to “toggle” back and forth between tasks. We may think that we are performing many conscious activities, simultaneously, but we are, in fact, toggling back and forth among them, and apparently not performing any of them well. The toggle time creates a lapse while adjustment to the new activity takes place.

If you were photographing flowers up close and then turned your attention to capture a bird in flight, the lens would need to readjust to the changes in light, distance, focus, movement, etc. That’s what happens with our brains when we switch from email to texting to Pinterest, to Instagram, to Etsy, to someone in the room talking to us while the cell phone rings and the alerts that a friend shared a thought on Facebook ping.

Have you ever gotten stuck in that maze and said, “What was I doing?” I have.

You may attribute it to the aging process, but no one’s brains are wired that way. We jump to answer all of the alarms that we set in our lives. Browse the history on your computer for the last hour and see everywhere that you’ve been. It’s astonishing.

Just while I’ve been writing this post, my youngest daughter called, our dog had to go out, my husband asked me to look at a piece of mail, our son texted me, I got a notice from Etsy that someone loves my art, (yay! Thank you!) and I remembered that I have to be somewhere later and so set another alarm. I got up to eat an apple and saw that the washer’s cycle was finished and that the teapot was empty. I put up a pot of tea and ran into the laundry room to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer and all of this while I’m mindful of this process! Augh.

No wonder life can be a blur! We NEED to make life a single-focus-at-a time Enchanted Journey!

What can we do about it when the world has gotten used to this level of engagement? (because it turns out that it’s not productive.)

We can discipline ourselves to complete a single-focus task before turning to another. We can set times to read email, respond to phone calls, and browse social media. We need to cease being immediate gratification nuts with the attention span of gnats.

  1. Dr. Sood says there are five major ways in which multitasking can hurt us:
    1. It increases stress
    2. Fatigues the brain
    3. Impairs our ability to do any task well
    4. Deprives us of deeper meaningful experiences
    5. Increases error risk

He suggests that it isn’t realistic to imagine banishing multitasking completely so he advises the following:

1. Multitask only when necessary.
2. Don’t multitask in relationships. (It sends a message that the other isn’t important enough to receive full attention.)
3. Don’t multitask in high-stakes situations when the error can be life threatening. (A friend of mine is a fire Captain and he confirms the dangers of multitasking. He has been called to many accident scenes in which people had been on their phone while driving, applying make-up, changing their music selection, looking at a map, and eating or drinking a beverage.)

Multitasking creates clutter in the brain. Write things down in an organized fashion so they don’t take up valuable real estate in your head. Designate times for tasks to be completed, uninterrupted. You need some “ahh” space inside between those ears. Create some today.

Write a comment