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When You Can Stop Yourself From Multitasking, Your Brain Will Start To Change

When You Can Stop Yourself From Multitasking, Your Brain Will Start To Change

“Most of us have action addiction; it’s that dopamine craving. We’re spinning our wheels with insignificant things. You run fast without achieving anything. It’s so widespread, and it’s the main threat to mental effectiveness and productivity.” -Rasmus Hougaard, Co-Author of “One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work With Mindfulness”

Multitasking for Instant Gratification

Multitasking is inefficient and unproductive. However, our brains are geared towards this by default. But why? Firstly, we have a wandering mind. Case in point: I’m sitting here on my bed, and as I attempt to write this article, my mind is wandering; I’m thinking about going out for a drink with friends. But, I’m mindful of this distraction – this is crucially important – but more on that later.

Secondly, each time we complete a new task, no matter how trivial – this could be sending an e-mail to answer a work colleague’s question – we receive a reward. This reward takes the form of a dopamine injection – a naturally produced neurotransmitter directly linked to addiction. When released we immediately feel good. We receive instant gratification, despite the sheer insignificance that the task may entail. Our brains learn this, and so, we continue to chase this instant gratification.

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How to Stop Multitasking

If we’re able to stop this multitasking, which is very much a part of who we are, our brains will change. How though do we stop multitasking and more importantly how will our brain change? Let’s find out.

For us to stop multitasking and subsequently improve our productivity and focus, we need to work against our brain’s natural inclination to multitask. We need to stop focusing on small insignificant actions and rather focus on important ones. We need to be more mindful. There are two rules of mindfulness training.

Mindfulness Training: The Two Rules

1. We can let go of the majority of distractions

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We need to be cognizant that the majority of distractions are negligible and we can consciously choose where we focus our attention. Yes, our brains will wander by default – I mean they’re wandering 46.9% of the time – but the art is to notice these distractions, without getting distracted.

For example, earlier I was being mindful of wanting to have a beer with a friend; I noticed it and re-focused my attention on the article because the article was more important at the time as I have a deadline looming. Always remember we have control over our distraction. They do not control us.

2. Strategically Handling Our Distractions

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We also need to strategically handle distractions, either by choosing to let them go totally, dealing with them in the future or diverting our attention to them fully (if they’re more important than what we’re currently doing). For example, if I was faced with a family emergency whilst writing this article I would immediately divert my attention to that, as it’s far more important. Or if I received an e-mail from a work colleague asking me a question about a client meeting that’s happening in a week, I would choose to answer the question sometime in the future. These examples illustrate doing the right thing at the right moment.

How will this change our Brains?

By practicing mindfulness and refusing to give into our brain’s default tendency to wander and multitask, we’re training the prefrontal cortex of our brain. This is the part of our brain that gives us the ability to maneuver at will. We’re also able to better focus on important tasks and gain control over what Hougaard refers to as the “digital weapons of mass destruction.”

On that note, I’m going out for a beer with my friends.

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Featured photo credit: medicine.stonybrookmedicine.edu via medicine.stonybrookmedicine.edu

More by this author

Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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