For the first time, the word "multitasking" began to be used in the 60s in the field of data processing. It described the ability of a computer to process multiple tasks at the same time. But then this term began to be applied to people.
In data processing, multitasking is not about performing multiple actions in parallel. Just in this mode, there is more than one task in processing at the same time. In this case, one task is directly processed, and the other is waiting for its turn. Switching the CPU from one task to another is called context switching, and the illusion of parallel execution of cases occurs with frequent switches.
Multitasking is just an illusion. In fact, we just keep switching from one case to another over and over again.
Our brain simply cannot handle more than two complex tasks at the same time. It was discovered by scientists from the National Institute of health and medical research (INSERM) in Paris.
During the experiment, they asked participants to do two things at the same time and observed their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging. It turned out that while performing two tasks, the brain "bifurcates": two sites (two frontal lobes) Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes are activated.
Then the scientists asked the participants to perform three tasks at the same time. In this case, participants constantly forgot about one of the three tasks and often made mistakes. It turns out, although we can easily switch between the two cases, more tasks we can no longer afford (simply because we have only two frontal lobes).
We switch from one case to another at the expense of the Executive functions of the brain. They control thought processes and determine how, when and in what order tasks are performed.
Control of execution takes place in two stages.
- Change of goal - the decision to do not one, but another thing.
- Activate a new role - moves from the rules of the previous task to the rules of the new task.
Switching between tasks can take only a few tenths of a second, but gradually this time accumulates, especially if you switch frequently. In fact, we are slower.
Of course, sometimes it does not matter: for example, when we are simultaneously engaged in cleaning and watching TV. But in situations where safety is important, such as driving, even these fractions of a second can be crucial.
Disadvantages of multitasking
Multitasking reduces productivity
As mentioned above, in multitasking mode, we just switch from one case to another. Because of this, we work more slowly, because every time we have to remember all the information relating to the case to which we switch. At the same time, our brain gets tired more than with concentrated work on one thing. In addition, constantly switching from one to another, we make more mistakes.
Multitasking interferes with focus
When multitasking becomes a habit, focusing on one thing becomes very difficult. Usually, our brain ignores some incoming signals in order to reduce the load and devote all its energy to solving one problem. But once he gets used to multitasking, he gets confused and can't always tell which information is important and which to ignore.
Multitasking kills willpower
In multitasking, our attention is dispersed, and decision-making and critical thinking are slowed down. The brain gets tired faster, which affects willpower.
Therefore, there is a snowball effect: because of the decline of willpower, we can not do anything and feel unhappy, and negative emotions further deprive us of motivation.
How to regain the ability to concentrate
1. Do the most important thing in the morning
In the evening, make a list of things to do the next day and the most important thing to do in the first few hours of the day. Then you do not have all day to think about this important matter and worry about whether all you have time.
2. Remove all distractions from yourself
For example, if you're usually distracted by your phone, turn it off until you're done. If you spend a lot of time on social networks or funny videos on YouTube, block these sites.
3. Think strategically
Usually, we confuse important things with urgent. Therefore, it seems to us that we need to do everything as quickly as possible and to have time as much as possible.
By thinking strategically and planning ahead, you will begin to understand much more clearly what is important to you. And knowing what is especially important at one time or another, and fully focusing on this, you will do much more than if you will be sprayed on several cases at once.
Take a break from work or any other business for a while. For example, use the Pomodoro technique for short breaks during work and be sure to arrange yourself at least one day off per week. To recover and relax, try breathing exercises or meditation and do not forget about the most important way to relax — sleep.
How to reduce the need for multitasking at work
1. Always start with the preparation
If you take on a new project without the necessary information and a clear plan, you can get stuck halfway. So often it happens, especially when we have not finished one thing, take the next.
2. Reduce the number of open projects
Don't start new cases until you've finished the previous ones.
3. Develop a system of priorities
Each employee in the team must clearly understand their role at any given time. Therefore, always prioritize and try to determine your main task for each day or week.
There is nothing wrong with working in multitasking mode when it is absolutely necessary. But if it has spread to all areas of your life, ask yourself, "is multitasking useful in this area? What happens if I take the opposite approach and focus on one thing?"
Try the above tips to break out of the multitasking trap.