Keeping your focus - why multitasking is not good for you

 April 2023 

Not only is multitasking bad for productivity, it’s also harmful to your health.

Multitasking, put simply, is trying to perform two or more tasks at the same time. With our ever-growing list of things to do in a day and not enough hours to do them in, we are all guilty of it. Multitasking, by its very nature, seems like a great way to get a lot done at once, but in fact the opposite is true.

Research has shown that our brains are not wired to tackle multiple tasks in this way. Some research suggests that multitasking is not nearly as efficient as we like to believe, and can be even harmful to our health.

Here are six reasons why you should stop multitasking and start focusing on one task at a time.

Multitasking is meant to help you do more in less time, but it’s actually counter-productive. Multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40 per cent, according to research. When your brain is moving back and forth between multiple tasks, it’s difficult for you to give your full attention to any one of them. And the result is reduced, rather than improved productivity.
Research suggests that when multitasking, you are more likely to make errors. When your attention is divided and you are doing too many things together, you tend to make mistakes. By shifting rapidly from one task to the next, you can inadvertently miss crucial information, which can result in more mistakes.
Our brain is designed to concentrate on one task at a time. Multitasking increases the brain’s production of cortisol, a hormone that induces feelings of stress. When you multitask, your brain continuously switches between tasks, temporarily raising your blood pressure and heart rate. When you’re stressed, you can even lose your focus and calm, creating a constant state of stress and anxiety.
Quickly shifting from one task to another impacts short-term memory as the brain doesn’t have time to fully register and retain the incoming information. Studies show that multitaskers have reduced short-term and long-term memory because of their low attention span. According to research by Stanford University, people who tend to move between multiple tasks at once retain less information, making them struggle to complete even simple memory tests.
According to research, people who multitask have more difficulty with tasks that require creative problem-solving. When you try to multitask, you typically don’t focus long enough to come up with original, complex thoughts because you’re constantly switching back and forth. 
Multitasking may even be responsible for weight gain. A report published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who attempted to eat their meals while distracted - such as when watching television - ate more than those who only focused on their meals. Researchers attributed this to delayed signals in the brain indicating when a person was full. 

Try the exact opposite – monotasking or single-tasking. Our brain works better when it is focused on a single task at a time. Keeping your attention on one task for an extended period of time can be difficult in today’s digital world, with diversions just a click away.

The good news is that learning to focus is a skill that you can improve through practice. The more you monotask, the better you’ll be able to resist distractions and apply your focus to the tasks that deserve your undivided attention.

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