Did You Drop Something Important
Hot on the heels of Overwhelm comes the temptation to multi-task. I believe it is something we all do from time to time. We juggle all sorts of tasks in the belief that we are capable of doing more than one thing at a time effectively.
Researchers have shown that we can’t. In fact they have even dubbed this supposed desirable ability ‘chronic multitasking’. If that makes it sound like an affliction – then think of it as such. If you think you are a chronic multitasker, please read and take note as multitasking can have a long term harmful effect on the brain.
In a 2009 study, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass challenged 262 college students to complete experiments that involved switching among tasks, filtering irrelevant information, and using working memory. Nass and his colleagues expected that frequent multitaskers would outperform non-multitaskers on at least some of these activities.
They found the opposite: Chronic multitaskers were abysmal at all three tasks. The scariest part: Only one of the experiments actually involved multitasking, signaling to Nass that even when they focus on a single activity, frequent multitaskers use their brains less effectively.
Multitasking is a weakness, not a strength. In 2010, a study by neuroscientists at the French medical research agency Inserm showed that when people focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task.
This suggests a two-task limit on what the human brain can handle. Taking on more tasks increases the likelihood of errors, so Nass suggests what he calls the 20-minute rule. Rather than switching tasks from minute to minute, dedicate a 20-minute chunk of time to a single task, then switch to the next one.
This would seem like a good moment to interrupt and suggest that if you haven’t read my post on Focus – ‘How Long Can You Keep It Up’ – it would be a good time to do so! It is very relevant to the Researchers comments above.