As a parent, I really don’t think any of us can honestly say we don’t multitask continuously throughout the day.
Have you stopped to think about what the cost is?
Research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are. In fact, there’s a lot of research that suggests multitasking can limit your productivity.
It might seem like you are accomplishing multiple things at the same time, but what you are really doing is quickly shifting your attention and focus from one thing to the next. Switching from one task to another may make it difficult to tune out distractions. It reduces your comprehension, attention, and overall performance and it increases your stress levels.
Multitasking is managed by your executive functioning.
This controls and manages cognitive processes and determines how, when, and in what order certain tasks are performed. Moving through these stages repeatedly may only add a few tenths of a second, but it can start to add up. Over time multitasking takes a toll. This affects our overall well-being and impacts our ability to be present for ourselves and our loved ones. It shows up as irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and stress.
Teens and Multitasking:
(1.) The negative impact of chronic multitasking has been shown to be particularly detrimental to adolescent minds. At this age, brains are busy forming important neural connections. Spreading attention to thin, being constantly being distracted by different streams of information might have a serious, long-term, negative impact on how these connections form. (2.) Some research suggests that having music on while multitasking reduces the negative impacts of multitasking. As a mum, I wonder if this is why my son intuitively loves to listen to his music while switching between a dozen tabs, homework, chatting, gaming, YouTube, etc?
While you may be able to multitask it is not the kindest choice to make for your mental and emotional or physical health.
But how can I get it all done you might ask?
Prioritise and make sure you are at the top of that list.
Set clear achievable goals for yourself.
Schedule your tasks with the most important tasks first.
Limit distractions. This may mean seeking out a quieter place to work, switching your phone, notifications, and alarms off.
Keep yourself to one browser tab at a time when working or studying, and resist the urge to skip over to social media in between.
Limit the number of things you juggle at any given time to just one task. If you really need to work on multiple things at once, try to combine something automatic, like cleaning or folding laundry, with something that requires more focus, like having a conversation.
Use the "20-minute rule." Instead of constantly switching between tasks, fully devote your attention to one task for 20 minutes before switching to another.
Remember that your best is good enough.
Remind yourself daily that taking care of yourself IS important.
And of course, a huge benefit to us all whether we are combatting the effects of trying to get everything done at once to adding time proactively caring for our own well-being; is to practice mindfulness.
Adding mindfulness to your daily routine may help you notice the times when you're multitasking or being distracted. Mindfulness can improve your ability to focus and pay attention to one thing at a time. It reduces stress and improves your mood and performance.
If you are still struggling, you might like to contact a professional.
I am available via zoom for coaching and support.
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1. Uncapher MR, Lin L, Rosen LD, et al. Media multitasking and cognitive, psychological, neural, and learning differences. Pediatrics. 2017;140(Supplement 2):S62-S66. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758D
2. Lui KFH, Wong AC-N. Does media multitasking always hurt? A positive correlation between multitasking and multisensory integration. Psychon Bull Rev. 2012;19(4):647-653. doi:10.3758/s13423-012-0245-7