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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills

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Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills

Cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists over the world have repeatedly proven that multitasking skills are based on a myth.

There are about 2.5% of people, according to a test done by David Strayer and Jason Watson from the University of Utah and the University of Denver at Colorado, that are, indeed, “supertaskers.”

The rest of us are in the majority; we are of the 97.5% of folks that need to accept that our performance will be better when we focus on one task at a time, or what other researchers have called “switch-tasking.”

Basically, multitasking skills aren’t actually as real as we thought, and when they are real, it’s rare that those skills exist in everyday people. These skills, when they do exist in someone, makes them a “supertasker.”

You may have been told that many women have the ability to multitask because we handle multiple tasks at the same time. We think to set the laundry before putting the casserole in the oven since both will take about the same amount of time to finish. Due to the magic of having two tasks completed in the same allotment of time, we have been dubbed with a talent that doesn’t actually exist.

But just because we thought to do those two things above, and write an article while backing up client work on redundant servers and updating two laptop computers for new staff to pick up tomorrow, is this a good idea for the human brain?

Are Multitasking Skills Even Special?

Science seems to keep saying no or only for a very special few. However, it’s easy to see why we’ve adopted such a mistaken name for getting lots of different things finished in the same amount of time, and why it has made some people feel special.

But look a little more closely at what is really happening with the work at home, freelancing, multitasking phenom of a person that thinks to get all these items checked off his/her list in roughly the same two hours through effective multitasking.

Let’s compare them to the person who decides that they will only focus on writing the article for two hours and leave those other items for later.

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It will become apparent to anyone that the quality of the article done by the multitasker will be different and has more propensity to be of lower quality than that of the fully focused freelancer.

This is because switching focus leaves more margin for errors in both quality and effort.

Think of our phenom, faking his/her focus on her article trying to give each sentence its due, while clicking on the backup tab as the client’s data transfers, listening for the oven and laundry machine chimes, and trying to think of a snazzier headline than that of the other guy that wrote an article like this one.

Whereas, our fully focused freelancer uses the time to get into a flow, thinking of all the articles s/he’s read and reviewed on the subject, thinking of his/her own life, and putting more aspects of what s/he’s been exposed to in each sentence she types.

S/he is putting every ounce of effort, physically and mentally, into the article in a way that may lessen the need for a thesaurus and flipping to search engines to flesh out ideas for supporting points, and s/he can draft it out in a much fuller way with a tone specific to their own writing voice – which is valuable in a world with our internet!

Why Everyone Wants Multitasking Skills

We all want to optimize our time and give our all to the work and the projects that we love. We all want to make sure that the people we love are taken care of and our environment is one that promotes good work.

We all want to make certain we are prioritizing the right things and spending our time the way we intended for the day. At the end of each day we want to know we got the big stuff accomplished.

The only reason the term “multitasker” became so sexy is the desire to optimize our time. If you weren’t one, you were trying to read books and go to seminars to learn how to become one.

Later, it was called out as a dirty word and we started to shout at people if they interrupted us for three seconds because we were giving our work a scary amount of savant-like attention, like a mad scientist disrupted and angry over a quick question about lunch.

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Science confused some people, as it sometimes does, telling us for a few years that multitasking like a Stepford wife is the thing everyone should be and then realizing that, no…maybe not.

In short, science has come to the conclusion that multitasking may not be the best way to get things done.

One study found that media multitasking (using two or more media sources at the same time) among college students led to lower GPAs, test performance, information recall, comprehension, and note-taking. The researchers went on to point out that “Outside of the classroom, media multitasking is also tied to poorer classroom performance along with students predicting less confidence and lower scores”[1].

In another study that focused on physicians, researchers found that “Interruptions, multitasking and poor sleep were associated with significantly increased rates of prescribing errors”[2].

The general conclusion seems to be that multitasking increases errors, reduces memory recall, and hurts overall performance on a given task. As it seems to be time to ditch efforts with multitasking skills, here are some things you can do instead.

What to Do Instead of Multitasking

People like you and me who want to:

  • Give the best of ourselves to our work and creative projects
  • Get important life and adulting things done each week
  • Have energy left over to not snap at those we love
  • Feel like life is moving forward and we are accomplishing our goals

We OPTIMIZE.

This means that there are days and weeks when we spend 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM getting five things completed.

However, this also means there are going to be more days and weeks where we are being a fully focused mad scientist, giving our all to the one thing in front of us for an undistracted two hours. We prioritize tasks, delegate tasks, and get things done.

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Optimization of time takes a skill that we ALL have the capacity to learn and get better at.

This is the skill we need more of and the one skill that can help us truly get the time back that we think we are losing when we forget to turn on the dishwasher before we sit down to finish that financial report.

Try this:

1. Don’t Fake It

What are the three most important things that need to be completed this week? Are these things able to be completed in the time you’ve allotted for them?

Break it down into hour chunks and see how many hours one whole item needs. Then, add ten percent more time to each.

That’s the true allotment of time each item will likely take to complete.

Now, without faking it, can you finish these important things this week or not?

Once you decide, check out this video to help you learn how to get into deep work and focus like a champion:

2. Multitask With the Mini-Tasks

Once you break down the big three things for the week, two of them may have mini-tasks built into the completion of them, and this is where you can utilize some multitasking skills.

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This means you can have the best of both worlds because you can spread your energy during those time allotments to a mini-task and something else less urgent, getting those things done during the same time block.

3. Focus With Force

For the final, big task, we broke it down into chunks, and we see it has seven parts to complete this week. Each part will require your heart, mind, and soul.

When you work it out this way, you will know very clearly which time blocks to protect. It’s an amazing feeling to accomplish work this way, especially when you protect the time around it. It gives you an energy boost just thinking about HOW you will protect it.

By getting into a flow of focus, your work will begin to reflect who you really are. When you optimize and don’t compromise, you protect the work you do, and it shows.

If you need more help sharpening your focus, check out this Lifehack Fast-Track Class: End Distraction And Find Your Focus

Start Optimizing Your Time

Tips abound, and the research is extensive on multitasking versus switch-tasking. Prioritization often seems to fall under the “time management” umbrella, and yet, the point of prioritizing is to optimize the few precious hours we get in a productive adult life.

Optimizing is really the skill we need most because it forces us to dig deep and choose what’s most important to us personally. That’s something you can stand by.

More on How to Avoid Multitasking Skills

Featured photo credit: Marvin Meyer via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Natasha Riley-Noah, EA

Small business advisor for all things related to taxes and compliance, mentoring entrepreneurs all along the US Gulf Coast.

Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills

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Last Updated on October 20, 2021

How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

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How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

We live in a time where we have access to nearly anything and everything we could ever ask for. But we need to ask ourselves: Is this a good thing? If you’re planning a honeymoon, looking for ways to build your next business, or searching to improve your physical fitness, having an endless portal of information is worth its weight in gold. But if you’re like most individuals throughout the world, the internet has become a source of ongoing anxiety, stress, and fear-mongering—a digital distraction that can have devastating effects on our mental and emotional well-being.

With social media, we see what people want us to see, not what they truly are at all hours during the day. We see what news outlets want us to see with our newsfeed, especially if it’s skewed to connect with your views through a brilliantly designed algorithm. With our information, we confirm our biases through articles, podcast episodes, and reading forums that perfectly reinforce what we already know. Yet, we have to wonder: is this good for us, for our brains, and our long-term growth?

Even with the recent advancements in technology over the last few decades, our brains haven’t changed much. The latest estimates suggest that our modern-day brains haven’t changed in over 40,000 years, which is a blink of an eye on our trajectory of life on our planet as we know it.[1] As a result of this lack of change, our brains haven’t been able to adapt to digital distractions—this rapidly changing technology and fast-paced lifestyle—which was created to hijack our brain’s neural circuitry by creating continuous stressors that have devastating effects on our overall health.

In his infamous book Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky documents how stress affects both animals and humans, essentially making the analogy that stress isn’t bad in small quantities, but repeated and chronic stressors over days, weeks, months, and even years can have detrimental effects on our health. And these stressors don’t even have to be real!

Perceived stress from anxiety, judgment, fear of missing out, and feelings of being inferior to others based on comparisons and social media profiles can have similar effects on our health because the brain cannot truly tell the difference between a real or perceived threat. Technological advancements rarely come without a hidden cost to the people using them.

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While this talk may all sound grim and pessimistic, it doesn’t have to be. The advent of the internet and social media has allowed individuals to express themselves, find their tribe, and connect with others around the world without having to leave their homes. And companies are being built at the kitchen counter of an apartment because of how impactful the internet has become.

To change our current mental health and addiction trajectory, we must understand how to take back control and use these platforms to our advantage. Here are a few tips on how to deal with digital distractions and improve your focus.

1. Kiss Your Notifications Good-Bye

In his hallmark book, Indistractible, Nir Eyal goes into great detail about how social media companies ingeniously created “alerts” to seduce the mind into spending more time on a platform, thus increasing viewing times, creating greater revenue generation, and creating a dependency on updated information. Much like casinos, these tactics heavily involve similar reward pathways within the brain, causing the user to become a dopamine-addicted fiend by using likes, clicks, and alerts to fuel an archaic positive-feedback system that keeps them coming back for more.[2]

Do you actually need to know when someone liked a friend’s page? In the grand scheme of things, how impactful is it to see that you got 20 likes on your post from yesterday? And is it going to change your career trajectory if your friend posted a cat video on their TikTok page?

Let’s be honest, our lives would be much easier if we weren’t inundated with these quick little digital distractions, which is exactly what they are. They’re designed to keep you as a user, which is why you need to take control of your content and filter your settings for alerts.

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Alerts are nothing more than simple distractions to take you away from the task at hand, so why not just get rid of them? Odds are, you are most likely checking your social media page a few times a day anyway. So since you’re already heading to the page, hold off on the distractions while you get your work done.

And this brings us to our next point.

2. Structure Provides Freedom of Choice

Planning your day can be one of the most efficient uses of your time because it sets up the structure needed to accomplish your tasks. This structure inherently allows you greater freedom of choice down the road, as it will allow you to have more free time after you get your work done and finish up deadlines. It will also reinforce that freedom isn’t the lack of boundaries. It is the foundation to allow you to have greater freedom of choice later.

Saving money may not be the most glorious habit. Still, those small habits of saving can compound into significant personal and financial freedoms later in life, essentially allowing you the freedom to retire from work and still have the financial flexibility to continue on with life.

The same is true with using social media and digital platforms for enjoyment. Planning the times and duration for using these platforms can be one of the most efficient uses of your time because it creates boundaries. Influencers on social media platforms don’t have enough time in the day to be scrolling and creating content, but they make you feel like they do. This principle is also true for you, especially those who use digital platforms to promote your brand, business, or company.

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Use your time wisely because we all have a limited and finite amount of it no matter how wealthy you are.

3. Use Digital Platforms to Grow, Not to Show

Who you choose to follow on social media will dictate how productive you are when you’re not actively scrolling. Why? Because your newsfeed will influence the emotions, feelings, and reactions to drive you closer or further away from achieving your goals.

When digital distractions become rampant, they take you away from the tasks at hand and can cause you to feel guilty because of how they make you feel. Just because you aren’t a 27-year-old YouTube channel sensation doesn’t mean you won’t ever achieve the status of being an influential entrepreneur. You can’t compare your chapter 2 to someone else’s chapter 10.

Your choice in following accounts and individuals who will empower you to overcome stressors, hurdles, and personal life choices could give you enough motivation to push through the struggles and face your greatest fears. And if you haven’t taken the time to clean up who you follow on social media, it’s time to make it happen.

Humans are social animals and can be easily influenced by our surroundings. Case in point: Dr. Stanley Milgram performed multiple studies in the 1960s where participants were asked to induce a graded electric shock to an “unknowingly” willing participant in a separate room. Over time, the participants were asked to turn up the intensity of the shocks, reaching a point of lethal shock intensity. Even at lethal shock levels, the participants kept inducing shocks to the individual in the closed room per suggestions from the accompanying individual in the room guiding them through the exercise. Why? Because when people have authority, we inherently obey their orders to feel connected and socially accepted, even if those orders involve drastic actions and near-fatal outcomes.[3]

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Luckily, there were no individuals harmed during these experiments because the participants in the closed room were actors hired to play the part of being shocked. But the information is enough to show just how impactful outside sources of influence—especially authoritative forces like social media influencers and people with high follower counts—can be on changing our behaviors.

Your time spent online should pick you up and help guide you towards your intended goals, not push you down and make you feel inferior to the rest of the world. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we already had a mental health crisis on our hands.[4] Let’s do what we can to reverse it.

4. When You Choose To Focus, Your Life Will Come Into Focus

If you’ve ever been looking for a new car, you know how impactful intentional focus can be on accomplishing a task. It is at this moment when you realize that every other person on the road is driving the same car that you’ve been looking to buy. How is this possible?

The amount of cars on the road hasn’t changed. Your perceptions have. It’s always been that way, but once your brain starts to focus on a specific detail, you start seeing more of it manifest throughout your environment. This happens regardless of whether or not you’re looking for the good, the bad, or the ugly. What you hope to see is what you will eventually get.

When you focus your time and energy on accomplishing your end task, your brain will find things to reinforce this pattern, thus creating an inevitable positive feedback cycle that will take you and your game to the next level. This concept of “The Law of Attraction” can be dated back centuries to many historical figures throughout the world.[5]

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So, the next time you find yourself fazed by digital distractions and lost in the realms of our current digital age, take some time to sit back, lose yourself in your thoughts, and put your phone away. It’s the only way you will make it out alive.

More Tips on Dealing With Distractions

Featured photo credit: Maxim Ilyahov via unsplash.com

Reference

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