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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

Why You May Want to Ditch Those Multitasking Skills

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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Published on February 25, 2021

How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction

How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction

Nowadays, if you’re not on social media, you feel like you’re not truly living in the 21st century. Everything from businesses to personal and professional relationships, social media has a strong presence—and with that, a luring temptation to spend even more time using its features.

While it still provides platforms where we can connect with friends and family, it has exponentially grown to an online version of the Vegas strip: advertisements, videos, and links inviting us to turn our attention to the next latest and greatest trend or product. According to a recent article by Forbes, having a potent social media strategy is critical for businesses and consumers alike.[1] We make a tremendous amount of purchasing decisions based on content provided to us via social media channels.

Likewise, we also tend to “follow the flock” when it comes to new trends, ideas, fashion, and unfortunately, even politics. While the positive side of social media is that we now have more freedom of expression, the shadow side is still just as present: we can easily lose our sense of individuality.[2] It’s a slippery slope—and one that often takes a bit of time and consequence to realize and change. This is why the term “social media addiction” has taken root in the health and wellness industry as one of the causes of mental health issues.[3]

Social Media Addiction and How It Affects Health

How we use social media has drastically changed since the dawn of websites like Facebook. Initially, Facebook’s platform was a simple way of connecting with friends and family and posting cheesy pictures or status updates on Facebook’s “wall.”

Over time, however, with the emergence of a more picture-oriented platform like Instagram, we upped the ante. This is where the slippery slope emerged, and we’re still dealing with it presently.

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Take a look at some of the most popular Instagram profiles today. You’ll likely see a pattern of manicured photos and perfect layouts, followed by millions of users. This has become an “Instagram goal,” and it perpetuates the idea that beautiful pictures equate to a happy user. We know that’s simply not the case, but this mentality and desire to create a perfect life online for all to see is feeding depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Likewise, it’s causing us to lose our sense of authenticity and realness because the “real world” problems don’t make for beautiful social media posts. Instead, we hide behind the beauty that’s only covering up our sadness, grief, or loneliness. Because we’ve carefully created our online world, we’ve stepped out of our real one. Social media addiction is this practice of escapism.[4]

So, how do you take back the reins of your life and curb your time on social media (and stop social media addiction)? Here are some steps to get started.

1. Think About Why You’d Like to Be on Social Media

Everything we do in life is about intention: why do you want to do something? What will it bring you? The same goes for social media use. It may be silly to ask this question when thinking about a Facebook or Instagram account, but if you want to truly control your social media (instead of the other way around), asking this question may truly be eye-opening.

Do you want to just keep in touch with friends, or do you want to promote your business? Getting to the crux of why you’re online will help you clearly mark your time on social media effectively and eliminate everything else.

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2. Be Meticulous About Who You Follow and what you post and share

Attention is your greatest currency. Read that again.

Everything that you click on or “like” becomes a thread in the tapestry of what comes back to you on social media newsfeeds. You want to create the kind of information spread that works for you, your needs, and your time. So, often, we impulsively follow people who may not be serving our best interests.

Give yourself permission to clean those contacts out every once in a while! It’s okay to disagree with someone. Instead of plummeting into a rabbit hole of social media thread arguments, unfollow anyone who you don’t connect with. It’s much better for your mental health and helps you get rid of social media addiction.

Likewise, be meticulous about what you share. Are you posting misinformation yourself? Just like you are planning on cleaning up your contacts list, someone who follows you may be thinking of doing the same. Make it a priority to share and post things that not only have significance to you but also serve others.

3. Curb the Time You Spend Online

If you have a laundry list of things to get done but have spent the last three hours scrolling your newsfeed, it’s time to close the app or the computer. Set a timer on your phone, if that’s what it takes to solve your social media addiction.

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Once you begin the practice of detaching from being online so much, you’ll notice that you get so much time back! This time has always existed, but you were just using it poorly. It’s not that you don’t have enough time—it’s just that you spend too much time scrolling online instead of being productive.

4. Change Your Notification Settings

If your productivity is suffering because you’re constantly distracted by the pings from your notifications, there are ways to turn those notifications off in your settings. Better yet, you can always delete the apps from your phone and devices and resolve to check your social media notifications on your desktop. This way, you can get back to finishing your work without facing the temptation of checking your messages.

5. Not Everything Has to Be Posted and Shared

It often feels like we’re in a perpetual case of “FOMO” when it comes to posting on social media. If the Superbowl came and went and you didn’t post anything at all, will the world continue to spin? Of course.

We don’t have any social obligation to our followers to keep them abreast of every single event that happens in our life. These are choices that we must make consciously and in alignment with our desires.

Think about the last concert (in the pre-COVID world) you went to—did you immediately post bits of the concert to social media or snapped and uploaded a selfie of you and your friends?

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These are habitual things that we don’t even think about, which brings me to the final point…

6. It’s Okay to Put Your Phone Down and Enjoy Life

In fact, this one very simple point could truly help you cut that social media addiction! Precious moments of your life are one in a million—like seeing a shooting star or catching the smile of your favorite person. These moments are so fragile, and they never happen the same way twice in your lifetime.

Don’t run towards your phone to capture that moment. Capture it instead with your eyes and with your heart. Let it become a sweet memory. Enjoy the moment you’re so keen on sharing with others and instead, prioritize sharing it with yourself.

Final Thoughts

Social media addiction, when left unchecked, can lead us to depression and lack of self-worth and authenticity. If we “follow the flock” in search of creating a perfect online life, we’re stepping further away from being ourselves. This brings about a slew of consequences, which can snowball over time and lead to worse obstacles in our lives.

When we finally learn how to use social media, to what extent, and with what intention in mind, we can take control over it before it takes control over us.

More on Social Media Addiction

Featured photo credit: Ryan Plomp via unsplash.com

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