Do you respond to emails during staff meetings? Check your texts in the middle of a business lunch? Answer a call while typing out a report?
You just became an 8-year-old… literally.
You Can’t Outsmart Your Brain
Some people pride themselves on being ‘exceptional’ multitaskers. But research says there’s no such thing.
A study by the University of London discovered that multi-tasking lowers your IQ by 15 points.
This is the same drop you’d experience if you smoked marijuana or stayed awake all night. It puts you in the IQ range of an 8-year-old.
Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Really.
If you try to pay attention to several electronic media streams simultaneously, you perform worse on all your tasks. Here’s the scary part. Even though you’re doing worse and worse on everything, you feel as though you’re doing better and better, says Sherry Turkle, Professor of Psychology at MIT.
Practice does not make perfect!
Your brain literally can’t organize thoughts and filter information on multiple topics simultaneously.
Multitasking Kills Your Memory…
Multitasking physically damages your brain.
Research published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review Journal shows that multitasking prevents you from forming memories. It weakens both your working memory (stores relevant information while you are working on a task) and your long-term memory (stores and recalls information over longer periods of time).
Without short-term or long-term memory, you cannot hope to make informed decisions. You operate in a void.
Multitasking also reduces the gray matter in your brain.
Gray matter helps with muscle control, seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control… it’s vitally important.
… So You Make Mistakes
Dr. John Halamka (Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School) tells this story:
A 56-year-old man with dementia needed a feeding tube placed in his stomach. His doctor gave him a blood thinner called warfarin. The next day, the doctor asked a resident to temporarily stop the warfarin. Using her cellphone to access the hospital’s electronic system, the resident began to make the change. Part of the way through, she received a text. She responded, but then forgot to go back and complete the change. The man’s blood became so ‘thin’ that two days later, he needed open-heart surgery to drain blood that had pooled around his heart.
Obviously, this is an extreme example.
But multitasking really does increase your risk of missing important information and making a serious, possibly life-threatening mistake.
Plus, it increases your stress level, makes you depressed and anxious, and cuts off your ability to problem-solve and be creative – vital skills for every executive.
Start Set Shifting
So what’s the solution? Discipline yourself to focus on one task at a time.
Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, suggest a skill called set shifting.
It’s okay to switch between tasks, but when you do, shift your attention consciously and completely. Then give your full attention to the new task. This will help increase creativity, minimize mistakes, and improve your mood… not to mention your brain health.
Stop pretending you’re a ‘good’ multitasker.
Start focusing on one task at a time. You’ll get more done. I promise.
To your unlimited business growth,