Our brains are ineffective when we multi-task

Are you a multi-tasking weapon? Can you make phone calls, write emails and wrap orders all at the same time? Well, you might be interested to learn that research shows that it is impossible to complete multiple tasks effectively and with the concentration, care and diligence each require.

This week, I returned to work after nine months of maternity leave with my gorgeous baby girl. Yesterday, our business had their annual professional development day, where Susan Pearce of Mind Gardener pretty much shattered my world.

She hit me (and 150 others) with some hard facts about multi-tasking and the news is bad, like really really bad.

Here are some stats I recorded:

  1. Only 2% of people can multi-task effectively
  2. Doing more than one thing decreases your productivity by 40%, YES 40!!
  3. When multi-tasking, we become distracted more often (on average every 6-8 minutes), meaning each task takes 50% longer to complete
  4. Multi-tasking LOWERS your IQ and puts you in the same state as someone who has smoked marijuana or not slept the night before
  5. The average persons loses 2.1 hours a day due to distractions or interruptions (this equates to 546 hours annually)
  6. Multi-tasking leads to an increase in mistakes (up to 50%)
  7. Multi-tasking increases cortisol (our stress hormone)
  8. New research suggests the possibility that cognitive damage associated with multi-tasking could be permanent

Today, I stopped multi-tasking. I deliberately focused on one task at a time and I am astounded to say, that in addition to not feeling stressed at all, I have completed ALL of my set tasks for the day (it is currently 12.32pm) AND I know I haven’t made any mistakes because each task had my full attention – ahhhhh.

So, here are my TOP THREE tips for overcoming the urge to multi-task:-

  1. Take deliberate action. You cant trust yourself (well I know I cant). Turn your email notifications and phone notifications off and only commit to checking them every hour (preferably, only three times a day)
  2. Re-structure your day. Write a list. My good friend, Oprah, says you can only effectively complete 7 tasks in a day. Place them in level of priority and do not move to the next task, until you are fully present and ready to do so
  3. Take a lunch break. Research shows that even 10 minutes in nature can boost productivity by 70%. Go for a walk outside your home or office and enjoy nature and fresh air. If you have the mental space, I would highly recommend meditating. Further research shows that when our brains are given space, a Task Negative Network kicks off. This electrical activity is free to flow, activating regions often kept silent when you are busy, and connecting neurons that don’t normally get the chance to share their information. This is when ideas and news ways of approaching old problems will present themselves, leading to significantly higher productivity.

Good luck my friends. I feel confident I have learned a lesson that will improve my life for the better x

Image Credit: Bucketsdotco

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