Do you think you are a multitasker? You are not. Multitasking is a myth. Our brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously but switches tasks quickly. Costing more time, making more mistakes and draining energy. What should you do instead of multitasking and how can you work smarter?
These days we have so many things we want to do. Things we think we need to be doing. We have the illusion that multitasking is the perfect way to cram all these things into our day. I always wanted to be a multitasker myself. Someone who is able to do multiple things at once. For a long time I even thought I was a true multitasker!
I thought I was multitasking
When I studied in college I always turned on the tv or some loud music when I was cramming for an exam. Later, when I was in the gym I would run on the treadmill while listening to podcasts on my headphones and watching Discovery Channel on the tv. When I was speaking to someone on the phone I would also browse the internet and listen to music. And when I was interviewing somebody for my work I was always simultaneously typing notes on my laptop.
Multitasking made me feel powerful and in control. It felt like I was doing all these important things at once and I was saving time. How wrong could I be?
I don’t remember when I finally realized that multitasking is not the way to go. One day I just came to the conclusion that doing one important thing at a time not only made me enjoy it more, it also boosted the quality of the thing I was doing. I felt much more relaxed. When I was studying something I would really understand the text I was reading. Meanwhile, in the gym I was doing the exercises much more effectively. And when I was speaking on the phone it felt more like an actual conversation. Just like when I was interviewing somebody for my work.
We just switch tasks quickly
When I started reading research about this subject I discovered that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously. We just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from, for example, studying to listening to music there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.
That start/stop/start process is draining our energy. Besides that: it costs more time, is less efficient and is the reason we make more mistakes.
Next time you think you are multitasking, stop and be aware of the fact that you are actually switchtasking. Stop doing that and start singletasking: focus on one important task at once for a set period of 30 minutes and do that really well. Then switch to the second thing you want to do. Or take a short break and continue with the same task.
You will see that the quality of the thing you are doing will improve. You will enjoy it more and you will get more done in a shorter period of time. Last but not least you will have more energy to do other things you want to do and you will feel much more relaxed.