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The Truth about Multitasking

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Many people pride themselves over their ability to do more than one task at the same time, believing that this approach saves their time and makes them more productive. Do you multitask as well? Is it possible for our brains to engage in more than one task at a time? More importantly, what does science say about multitasking?

According to science, multitasking is not as good as some people believe. For example, numerous studies have shown that doing more than one task at a time can lead to serious consequences, including car accidents. Think of those making phone calls or checking text messages while driving.

Why does multitasking cause trouble? The part of the brain responsible for thinking, planning, and making important decisions is known as the “prefrontal cortex.” A study published in Nature journal, states that the prefrontal cortex decides the sensations or information we pay attention to. This means it helps us focus on one task, and gets rid of all other distractions. As a result, when we try to do numerous things, we burden our brains and lose our ability to focus, leading to a “divided attention” or “no attention at all”.

Yet, you still can multitask when performing activities that do not involve thinking or planning, such as physical activities; for example, you can walk and listen to music at the same time. Activities that allow multitasking involve “muscle memory”, where your body knows what it has to do without thinking.

Now, how does the brain behave when we perform multiple tasks? The brain does not perform tasks simultaneously; it rather switches from one task to another. This process is energy- and time-consuming; you always take time to switch back from one task to another. Think of the time you waste switching back and forth between two things, which if you have done separately, you would have done better and in less time.

If you think you are doing yourself a favor, for example getting cleverer, when you multitask, I bet you should reconsider this because science states that multitasking does exactly the opposite. In fact, multitasking makes you lose the attention and focus needed for a proper learning experience. Moreover, when you multitask, you risk repeating your work or efforts, simply because you can easily make mistakes.

Science also says that multitasking kills creativity, because creativity requires full concentration in order to develop better thoughts, ideas, etc. Multitasking has negative impacts on our physical health as well. When researches at the University of California Irvine measured the stress of those who multitask and those who do not, it turned out that those who multitask have higher heartbeat rates. Another major disadvantage of multitasking is not giving proper attention to what is taking place around you.

So, if you are a person who multitasks, may be it is time to stop. Try and see for yourself how you will become more productive, more creative, and healthier.

References

health.com
medicaldaily.com
psychologytoday.com
thriveglobal.com

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