We live in an age and time where multitasking is expected from you. Surprisingly, it remains as one of the most common job requirement by employers.
Multitasking has become an alluring trap especially among working professionals. There is a prevailing perception in work environments that you are smarter and more productive if you can multitask. Most people fall into this habit because those who can somehow squeeze more work into the time they’ve got come out ahead.
But did you know that dealing with more than one task at the same time can be detrimental to your health?
Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth and author of ‘Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy and Focus’, reveals that it is technically impossible for humans to multitask because the brain is not designed to do more than one thing at a time.
“Multitasking is a brain drain that exhausts the mind, zaps cognitive resources and, if left unchecked, condemns us to early mental decline and decreased sharpness. Chronic multitaskers also have increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can damage the memory region of the brain,” Dr. Chapman explains.
She adds that recent studies provide evidence that adopting healthier thinking habits and improved cognitive strategies can rejuvenate your mind, reversing its clock by decades. “Consistent single-tasking helps ensure that your decision-making skills last late into your senior years.”
A study of rational ability in people age 50 to 80 called ‘Healthy Brain, Healthy Decisions’ revealed that the biggest predictor of a sound decision-maker was a high capacity for strategic attention or the ability to filter the most important information from less relevant data. The study also found that strategic attention actually increases with age; therefore, making single-tasking as one of the best ways to prime the mind for strategic attention.
Multitasking has become a toxic habit that makes you less productive and more prone to errors. With single-tasking, productivity and creativity levels are increased.
Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist in the University of California, believes that one of the benefits of single-tasking is to produce high quality work in a limited amount of time.
Focusing on one task at a time also promotes self-discipline which establishes a sense of commitment wherein you take on the responsibility to execute it with precision and excellence.
In multitasking, you switch tasks which divides your attention. Refocusing on other seemingly important tasks takes more time to complete any. In contrast, single-tasking helps improve your attention span by drawing out distractions which may come from other matters on hand when multitasking.
Single-tasking is not only advantageous at work, but also promotes all aspects of your well-being. Like most bad habits, changing from multitasking to single-tasking is in fact, a good change and exercise for your brain.
Here are three simple steps to single-tasking:
Give your full attention on the task at hand by avoiding distractions such as your mobile phones or tablets. Hide or put them in silent mode when not needed.
- Track or budget your time.
Identify your top priorities for the day. You can make a to-do list and categorize each task by importance. Designate the amount of time to work and when to check other matters on hand such as your work email, business calls, etc.
- Take a break.
It is important that you realize that your brain needs some down time. You may do some breathing exercises or simply walk outside the office for a breath of fresh air or different scenery ideally. Step away from your screens such your work computers, smartphones or social media.
You are neither too old nor too young to be proactive about your brain health and performance. While time is of the essence, keep in mind that health is wealth.