Sandi Langham, LCPC

Do you ever find yourself trying to accomplish several things at one time? Or do you find yourself trying to multi-task to get a lot done? Often we find ourselves trying to accomplish several things at one time in attempt to get a lot accomplished, such as multi-tasking several tasks at work or multi-tasking household chores or errands with the attempt to get a lot done.

But the reality is that recent studies have a shown that trying to get a lot done at the same time through multitasking does not actually work and is not effective. Research has even shown that attempting to multitask can actually take forty percent longer (Jääskeläinen, 2017). Additionally it can result in more errors and less attention to detail. Apparently this is because neuroscientifically the brain can only switch from one task to another at a time, and this process actually involves an intentional start and stop process. This involves microseconds to start as well as to stop. This results in increased frustration and impatient, since more mental energy is used.

This idea is also supported by David Crenshaw in his book “The Myth of Multitasking” as he says that multitasking wastes time and money in the workplace and even suggests that it damages productivity and relationships at home and work (Crenshaw, 2008).

Recent neuroscientific research has show that the brain can only focus on one area at a time. When we attempt to multitask, we do not really focus efficiently and end up compromising memory and clear cognitive thinking. Essentially attempting to multitask decreases the mind’s performance. The mind can perform tasks sequentially but not simultaneously. This is also why intentionally focusing only one thing at time can improve clear thinking and wise decision-making. Task switching is not effective and actually slows the brain down.

But there are ways that we can still get a lot done in a productive way without task switching and trying to multitask.

Here are few tips for time management summarized from the “Relaxation and Stress Management workbook:

  • Log your time – Evaluate how you have been spending your time down to the minute each day. This way you can have a baseline of where time is being used. This can be helpful for where they may be room to shift things around.
  • Identify your values – Think about what you value most to complete, whether this is at work or at home. Being clear about why accomplishing certain priorities are important to you increases incentive and motivation.
  • Identify your priorities – After you’ve identified your priorities, what is of the highest priority to address first? Make a list of the most important down to the least important based on your initial valued goals. Be realistic and let go of things they be worked on at a later time.
  • Select short-term and long-term goals – See what your short-term goals are. Write or record this in an electronic calendar of goals for the day and for the week. You may also record long-term goals for the month and year. Are there “big picture” goals that you want to work toward and make note of?
  • Organize your time – Put everything in a calendar, both short-term and long-term goals in a deliberate way, so that you can control your own time.

References

American Psychological Association. (2006). “Multitasking: Switching Costs.” Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask
Crenshaw, D. (2008). The Myth of Multitasking. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Davis, M., Robins Eshelman, E., & McKay, M. (2008). The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Jääskeläinen, L. (April 2017). “Multitasking Overloads the Brain”. Neurosicence News. Retrieved from https://neurosciencenews.com/multitasking-brain-overload-6531/
Toren, M. (2017). “Why Multitasking is a Myth that’s Breaking Your Brain and Wasting Your Time”. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/299029