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What Happened When I Gave Up Multitasking For A Week

Source | FastCompany : By LYDIA DISHMAN 

The problem with multitasking is that it just doesn’t work as well as we think it does.

The efficiency myth has been debunked by numerous experts and studies. For example, research from Stanford revealed that the more people multitask, the more they are training their brain to be scattered, and the less they are able to be creative or develop emotional intelligence. Another study from the suggested that your IQ can drop as much as if you’d missed a night of sleep. And the American Psychological Association revealed that a group of studies proved that workers performing juggling acts were actually costing a lot more time and increasing the chance of errors. Overall, this degrades your brain’s executive function as well as damaging your productivity.

Even though I’m more aware than most of the marauding toll multitasking can take, for most of my working life, I’ve been hardcore multitasker. Like the subjects of a study from the University of Utah, I had an inflated sense of my ability to accomplish more than one thing at once. You could often find me on the phone while looking up something unrelated up on the computer, tuning in to the conversations in the room, and nibbling away at my mid-morning (or afternoon) snack.

A former boss reinforced my overestimation when she presented me with a framed drawing of the Cat in the Hat. You know the one. He’s balancing on a beach ball while juggling an umbrella, rake, and fish bowl in one hand and a stack of books in the other. One foot props up a tray that holds a bottle of milk and a glass. He’s got a birthday cake perched on his hat and his tail curled around a fan.

As a full-time working mother of two, I became that cat. I eyeballed work email while making dinner. I took client calls in the carpool line. When the beachball of doom spun on my overworked computer, I used that time to check social feeds on my phone. Waiting for an editor to respond to a chat? Taken up by texting, tweeting, or reading a paragraph of a long-form article in another open tab. Even a simple trip to the restroom is an exercise in multitasking. Yes, I’ve answered emails and texts in the bathroom. (I do draw the line at answering the phone there.)

A couple of years ago, I made a major concerted effort to stop answering the siren song of pings and whistles after hours. I then chipped away at my chronic email habit and dealt with it in batches during designated times of the day. So when I read Laura Vanderkam’s piece on the true time cost of multitasking a couple of weeks ago, I thought I was ready to monotask.

Read On…

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