Why I Should Quit Multitasking

For years I’ve prided my abilities as a multitasker. I’ve answered emails or surfed the web while on phone calls, wrote papers while watching movies, and listened to books and music while running.

Sometimes I feel like this constant overstimulation causes my ideas, experiences, conversations, lessons, and creativity to blend together in a way where it become difficult for me to string together a series of thoughts, reflect on different experiences or come to conclusions.

I crave a quiet space where I can catch up with my thoughts, be creative and resolve problems. Without this time, I feel disorganized and cluttered and get stressed out. I sometimes wondering why I wait for the weekends to find this quiet time and I recently discovered that I think this is a symptom of my constant multi-tasking.

During the week, I’m almost constantly doing two if not more things at once. Rarely, do I get to focus on one challenge at a time. In shifting from one task to another, I loose my place in my thought process or even in the work itself, I waste time figuring out where I left off, or make mistakes like not attaching documents to emails.

NPR published a story back in 2008 that discusses exactly what has been frustrating me. One part of the article explains why I find it so difficult to concentrate on a conversation with the TV on in the background. It turns out our brains configure themselves to prioritize one kind of information over another – in this case visual information over auditory information. So, I’m giving you fair warning, if you want me to pay attention to or remember anything you say, you are going to have to turn off the TV before you talk to me.

I wondered, if multi-tasking is the cause of a lot of stress, why do I do it? This blog post on Harvard Business Review explains that you can listen to more words per minute then someone else can speak. So, you might decide to divert your “extra” attention to doing something else like plan your next vacation or shop for a new pair of shoes online. What you may not realize is that this is not extra attention. You are already using your brain to pick up nuances in the conversation, think about what you are hearing, and staying connected to what’s happening around you. I’m giving up all that to trick myself into thinking that I’m getting more done. Then I find that I need to go back and think about the conversation later.

One of my favorite blogs is zenhabits. The author of the blog, Leo Babauta shares great thoughts on mindfulness, focus, professional and personal development and simplifying life. He has a great post on how not to multi-task you can find here.

What are your tricks to stay focused and get some space and time for yourself?

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One thought on “Why I Should Quit Multitasking

  1. Multitasking Workouts « Reaching for Ironman 70.3 Boulder

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