Multi-Tasking: Bad for your Brain
By Dr. Marc Bubbs Naturopathic Doctor
Today, most people struggle to find enough time their lives. You can probably relate. Your days are most likely jammed packed with meetings, sales targets, family responsibilities, kids; the list goes on and on. Trying to find time to exercise, eat well, or simply relax can seem impossible.
This perceived lack of time means you need to be more productive with your workday… inevitably leading to multi-tasking. In our quest to become more productive, we see multi-tasking as a time efficient solution. Surely if you can reply to emails, while reading the latest work report, while following up on text from your kids or colleagues you are improving your productivity.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The latest science is telling us this new compulsion to multi-task is actually making us LESS productive (and more stupid!). In fact, what we perceive as ‘multi-tasking’ is actually called ‘serial-tasking’ and it’s a major drain on productivity.
Serial tasking is when you jump from one task to another to another in quick succession, rather than engaging in multiple tasks simultaneously. It may sound similar, but the impacts on your brain and your work at markedly different.
The research has uncovered that the human brain is not designed to multi-task. Did you know that the typical professional spends 25% of their workday answering e-mails? Studies show that when workers are forcibly removed from their email accounts, their heart rate decreases significantly, they stay on task much longer, and they limit the amount of time they jump from screen to screen. In short, their focus, concentration, and stress response all improve.
Also, the more you engage a topic in depth, the better your memory and recall. New studies show that multi-tasking reduces your capacity to understand and learn, reducing your memory and capacity to learn. Multi-tasking may save you time in the short-term, but you pay a larger price in the long-term.
Doctor Carol J. Scott MD has cited studies by the University of California that show that constant interruptions in your work or personal life – via constant Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, or e-mail alerts – can lead to stress, frustration, and reduced creativity. It’s no wonder then that the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts rates of anxiety will reach 2 billion globally by the year 2050!
What can you do about this alarming new trend? The research shows you’re best to stick to a maximum of two tasks at any one given time. As for emails, schedule a specific block of time to check your account and respond to incoming mail (30-60 minutes), then turn your email notifications off. Your brain and body will thank you for it…. you’ll be LESS BUSY and MORE PRODUCTIVE!
Dr. Marc Bubbs, ND, CSCS, is a Naturopathic Doctor, Strength Coach, Author, Speaker, and Blogger practicing in Toronto, Canada. He believes that diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors have the most profound impact on your overall health and performance. Marc is the author of The Paleo Project – A 21st Guide to Looking Leaner, Getting Stronger, & Living Longer and currently serves as the Sports Nutrition Lead for Canadian Men’s Olympic Basketball Team.Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS
1. Lapowsky, I. Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You. Chronic multitasking could be making you less productive. Why? Because your brain is on overload. Time Magazine, April 17 2013.
2. Scott, C. From Multi-Tasking to Mindful-Tasking. Huffington Post. June 18th 2014.
3. Crenshaw, Dave. The Myth of Multitasking; How “Doing it All” gets Nothing Done. Jossey-Bass 2008.
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