Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

It’s Time to Reject Multitasking. Break the Pattern and Retrain Your Brain.

By Helene Cavalli on January 23, 2014

We often hear co-workers proudly pronounce, “I’m multitasking!” Based on overwhelming research, it might not be anything to brag about. Multitasking—or seemingly performing two or more tasks simultaneously—involves switching between or attempting to complete a number of tasks quickly. Research has concluded that jumping between dissimilar activities can actually rewire our brains, hampering performance, creativity, emotional intelligence and retention of information.

In his Fast Company article, “What Multitasking Does To Your Brain,” Drake Baer cites a Stanford University study by professor Clifford Nass that concludes, “the more you multitask, the less you’re able to learn, concentrate, or be nice to people.” Other research supports this view. Granted, performing common household tasks—cooking, cleaning, folding laundry—while watching TV may not impede performance, tasks requiring higher cognition—language, complex processes, judgment, perception, analysis—are negatively impacted by multitasking. More mistakes are made and stress levels are increased.

So how do you break this pattern and retrain your brain? Here are a few tips:

  • Set priorities. Know what’s most important to accomplish every day and force yourself to resist the temptation to be distracted by less-important tasks.
  • Schedule your time. Weed out time eaters like email and social media until you’ve accomplished your most-crucial scheduled tasks.
  • Put first things first. Tackle your most important or difficult tasks first thing in the morning and commit to completing them before moving on to other things.
  • Control your devices. Begin by turning off your email alerts and other devices while practicing focused, singular concentration for a scheduled period of 20 minutes or more.
  • Avoid rushing. Think about what you’re doing for a few minutes rather than quickly jumping in to a new task or answering a question without deliberate forethought.

Today’s proliferation of information channels can pull us in a million directions, distracting us from our most important tasks and impairing our productivity. There will always be interruptions in our day, but making a deliberate effort to practice a singular focus of concentration will increase your productivity and performance. And your brain will thank you by performing at higher levels.

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