7 Myths about Multitasking and Its Effectiveness

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Multitasking – some people think of it as a being a strength. Essentially, it means that you can direct your attention towards numerous purposes and get positive results every single time.

And, to some extent, this might be true: multitasking could bring beneficial results, especially if you want to combat procrastination.

Still, you should note that the results will be temporary, in the sense that you’re going to taste the bitterness of multitasking in the future. At first glance, concentrating on a single task at a given time could seem like an indulgence, a luxury you cannot afford. Still, this is far from the truth.

1. Multitasking Maximizes Your Productivity

This is, perhaps, the biggest myth about multitasking.

Truth be told, when you multitask, you choose to sacrifice your full presence for the concept of enhanced productivity, which doesn’t even exist. There is compelling research outlining that multitasking is less efficient than concentrating on a singular task.

Oddly enough, this creates the illusion of productivity, leading to a feeling of self-satisfaction and gratification. Concurrently, research points that being actively focused on two things at the same time aren’t possible – that’s simply because the human mind works differently.

What is more, trying to combine a cognitive activity with an automatic activity, such as texting while driving, is widely contraindicated.

In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board points that texting while driving is as serious as driving after drinking alcohol.

When you multitask, you shift your concentration from an action to another at astonishing speed. And while you may think that you’re actually paying attention, you’re not. You are simply forcing the brain to switch among various tasks – since each task utilizes a specific part of the brain.

That is to say, it will take you more time to complete the tasks you’re switching between. That is not all: you’re more likely to make errors during the process.   

2. Multitasking Helps You to Save Time

The second myth about multitasking is that it helps you to save time.

And we all know how important this can be, considering the fast-paced lifestyles we lead.

Nevertheless, the reality differs: it might take you twice longer to finish two projects simultaneously than it would take if you would focus on each separately.

This principle also applies to automatic behaviors, such as driving. In fact, experts indicate that it will take much longer for drivers to reach their destinations if they text or chat on their cellphones.

On the other hand, you might save time with things you can do in batches, such as sending your e-mails at once or paying all your bills at once. So, you must understand that each task requires a specific mindset and degree of concentration. 

3. Multitasking Reduces Stress

The main reason why most people multi-task is that it gives them the impression that they get things done, which diminishes the stress associated with completing the tasks.

Nevertheless, the thing is that multi-tasking actually increases the production of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. That’s because multi-tasking means that your brain is continually switching its attention, which causes stress and makes you feel mentally exhausted.

This source indicates that multi-tasking damages your brain, in the sense that people that regularly multi-tasked had diminished brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. This is the region that is responsible for emotional control, empathy, and cognitive control.

Even though more research should be made in this respect, the existing evidence is still compelling.

4. Multitasking Allows You to Prioritize More

Many people assume that everything on their to-do lists is a priority. Hence, it is evident that it requires one’s immediate attention and concentration. Nevertheless, when you aim at prioritizing almost everything on your to-do list, in fact, you are not prioritizing anything.

That’s because multi-tasking makes you feel more stressed, which will instantly reduce your rate of success.

On the other side, you should comprise the traditional to-do list and categorize your tasks by the degree of urgency. Also, try to assign your undivided attention to every specific task, and you’ll soon realize that this approach is much more efficient.

5. Multitasking Allows You to Concentrate on More Things at a Time

When you attempt to do two or multiple things at once, you might be tempted to believe that this enhances your concentration.

However, this is just an illusion.

This study actually suggests that the simple action of interrupting a task and suddenly concentrating on another one can be enough to disrupt short-term memory.

Within this study, the researchers asked the participants to analyze one scene, and afterward, the image was unexpectedly changed with a different one. And the people aged between 60 and 80 found it really difficult to remember the details and information regarding the first one.

According to experts, as the brain ages, it becomes much more challenging to get back on track, even after a short detour.

Still, this doesn’t mean that young people won’t experience the detrimental effects of multitasking. It simply means that it might be less apparent.

6. Multitasking Challenges Your Creativity

Creativity is a valuable skill, which is of great importance in most working fields. And while you may believe that being focused on numerous tasks might make you more creative, this is far from the truth.

That’s primarily because multitasking requires your working memory, also referred to as temporary brain storage. The thing is that, when you utilize all your working memory, this will impair your capability of being creative.

According to a 2010 study, focusing too much could actually jeopardize one’s performance, especially when it comes to creative problem-solving tasks. As multitaskers have a lot of things going on in their heads, it is much more challenging, if not impossible, to have spontaneous, creative solutions to problems.

7. Multitasking Enhances Your Focus

It is a well-known fact that being focused is the key to solving a task and do that successfully. To that end, one of the most worrisome downsides of multitasking is the fact that it makes the brain more vulnerable and exposed to internal distractions.

Let’s take an example: social media notifications. If you were 100 percent honest, you would admit that ignoring them is really difficult. Also, even if you don’t want to, somehow they manage to detract your focus from your tasks.

As your engagement increases, your brain wants to anticipate more interaction. Due to this anticipation, there is the urge to constantly check your social media account, even if you’re doing something else. And these small brakes are the ones that make your mind lose its precious focus.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, multitasking isn’t going to maximize your productivity and efficiency when it comes to solving tasks. In fact, it is quite the opposite – it will make you less productive, it could damage your memory and concentration while making you feel stressed.

Hence, even if multitasking has become a second nature to you, this doesn’t mean you cannot do something about it. By committing to each individual task and directing your full concentration towards solving it, you’ll accomplish better results.

Remember that your mind is a powerful resource – as long as you use it correctly.

Written By
Jilian Woods is a master’s student in journalism at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. She is a freelance journalist, writer, and copywriter. Her work appears in various online publications, including The Daily Touch, Times Higher Education, Elephant Journal, and society19.

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