Somehow we do everything at the same time and yet afterwards we have the feeling that we haven’t done anything. Why is that and how does multitasking work anyway? We’ll show you eight myths about multitasking and explain why it can’t work the way we think it should.
First things first: we need to clarify that true multitasking is not possible. This is because the brain cannot, in fact, concentrate on more than one thing at a time.
Instead, it concentrates on different things very quickly one after the other. For example, you can send an e-mail, correct a text, eat your breakfast roll and listen to your colleague within a few seconds. For your brain, however, all this happens one after the other and not at the same time.
So multitasking is nothing more than many small constant interruptions of your workflow. Studies have found that these interruptions are very stressful for the brain, because it is not busy with one task, but is confronted with a variety of tasks that, taken together, overwhelm it.
We have already discussed one of the problems of multitasking: It’s so socially accepted and even required in many jobs that we can’t help but multitask in our day-to-day work. Unfortunately, this contributes to a generally higher error rate that we often don’t even notice. Careless mistakes become more and more established due to the loss of concentration.
These are ironed out by colleagues or technical aids. However, this would not even be necessary if we were concentrated on our work in the first place.
That doesn’t happen to you? Yes, it does: Have you ever gotten distracted from a task and answered the phone or replied to a message? Afterwards, you’re far less likely to be focused than you were before. That’s a big source of error.
Multitasking is pure stress.
Loss of priority
If you do everything at the same time anyway, it will be much harder for you to decide what is important and what is not.
Interestingly, though, it can help you prioritize when you’re just stuck in a loop of multitasking. It’s often especially difficult to deal with interruptions at work. If you haven’t prioritized your tasks, then you’ll probably consider each task to be similarly important. However, this can really backfire.
When you start a task at work, prioritize it beforehand. Is the task very important, important or nice to have? Then you can decide much easier what to distract yourself from.
In extreme cases, multitasking can even lead to lasting brain problems. The University of Sussex has found that brain density declines in people who multitask too much on a daily basis.
Sound creepy? It is, because these people have usually been found to be less empathic and have less control over their emotional world.
But this is not irreversible. If you want to get your brain density back, you should primarily work on tasks that require some concentration. But they should not overwhelm you, because that also stresses the brain. It is best to get into a flow while working.
It’s better to focus on one thing at a time.
Loss of productivity
Psychologists firmly believe that multitasking is not even the right word. Rather, it’s something like “task switching.” According to their studies, multitasking reduces productivity enormously.
We lose a whole 40% when we try to be as productive as possible by doing far too many tasks.
The problem with multitasking is that once you’re “task-switching,” you have to keep getting back to the task at hand. This costs valuable time.
Multitasking is a guarantee for getting bad IQ results. Actually totally logical: If you concentrate on several things at the same time, you end up with less brain power left for each individual task. However, an IQ test should be approached with the utmost attention.
It seems irritating that so many people refuse to acknowledge this insight. Even though everyone knows that in theory you should concentrate to do your job well, in the end very few do. A paradox.
If you multitask intensively, you know that sometimes you get a little “sloppy”. Mistakes happen to everyone, but when you do 100 tasks at once, you have 99 more sources of error. Sloppy work is then justified by saying that you “can’t pay attention to everything” because you “do so much anyway.”
But with that, you’re only lying to yourself, because every job should be done well.
Every single study on multitasking has shown that it’s not just your work that suffers, but your overall brain performance. That’s because memory takes a hit when you multitask. You can’t easily make connections between different events if you were distracted at the time of the experience.
Stress & relaxation have to be balanced in order not to make you sick.
No multitasking, but breaks & more discipline
Working more effectively is a huge undertaking that you have to learn little by little. You can practice doing a little digital detox, for example.
Increasing efficiency is especially possible when you have your priorities straight. To-do lists can be very helpful here.
Relaxation is just as important as tension. Set yourself the right evening routine and you will notice that it does you a lot of good in everyday life.