the myth of multitasking

Multitasking is a misnomer.

The brain can focus only on one thing at a time. We take in information sequentially. When we multitask, we actually switch back and forth between tasks, paying less attention to both. And, each time you switch tasks, your brain has to run through a complex process to disengage the neurons involved in one task and activate the neurons needed for the other.

Research shows that switching back and forth between tasks takes 50% longer to accomplish the task and results in 50% more errors.

We cannot concentrate in the same moment on two distinct, input-rich activities that require our attention – for example, carry on a conversation and text at the same time without losing information and time.

However, our brains may be wired, and even addicted, to multitasking and distraction. Successful multitasking activates the reward circuit in the brain by increasing dopamine levels—the brain chemical responsible for feelings of happiness (like the rush you feel when you win at the casino). So, we may not even notice we are making mistakes because it feels good! Multitasking also increases the release of adrenaline and stress hormones, which has implications for short-term memory loss (making it harder to retrieve information later) as well as long-term health problems.

Rather than divide our attention between tasks, it may be more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention. Like a 10-minute break every hours to do something for yourself (take a walk, do some deep breathing – tutorial HERE).

More of my thoughts on mono-tasking in general HERE, while having a conversation HERE, eating HERE, brushing my teeth HERE

So, “When you are walking, walk. When you are sitting, sit.” much love.



Kripalu Thrive Blog (Oct 7, 2014)

Real Happiness at Work, by Sharon Salzberg (Workman Publishing, 2014).




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