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Why You Should Quit Multi-Tasking Now

Why You Should Quit Multi-Tasking Now

In our very busy lives, there’s always a temptation to do too much at once. We have to recognize, though, the multi-tasking downsides that make splitting our attention a fruitless endeavor. Here are ten of the biggest multi-tasking downsides that demonstrate why we should do things one at a time.

1. Multi-Tasking Will Not Mean That You’re Simultaneously Doing Multiple Tasks

First, let’s get the concept of “multi-tasking” straight. You’re not actually doing two (or more) things at once. That’s essentially impossible. Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, compared our attention to a pie chart. What you’re working on takes up the majority of the pie, with only small slices left over for things you do automatically like breathing. What you’re calling multi-tasking is actually just shifting between tasks at a rapid pace. Getting into different headspaces takes energy, too, so ultimately…

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2. Multi-Tasking Will Actually Waste Time

It will take longer for a driver to reach a destination if they’re constantly fiddling with the radio. Likewise, being distracted by a small task while working on a big task will eat up more time than you’re saving. To avoid multi-tasking downsides like this, you have to just suck it up and fulfill your responsibilities one at a time.

3. Multi-Tasking Will Cause You To Make More Mistakes

You know this already, but this is one of the multi-tasking downsides that bears repeating. If your mind is divided between several tasks, your mistakes will multiply. Ask yourself if you can afford to make those mistakes. If you can’t, give each activity your full attention separately.

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4. Multi-Tasking Will Hurt Your Memory

A 2011 study by the University of California San Francisco suggests that quickly shifting from one task to another will impact your short term memory negatively. This becomes more and more apparent as you get older.

5. Multi-Tasking Will Inhibit Your Creativity

If you’ve devoted your attention to too many tasks at once, you don’t have enough working memory left to think up things that are truly creative. At best, you’ll get your assignments done in a workman-like fashion. This is one of the multi-tasking downsides you should be most aware of. If you multi-task, understand that your output will rarely rise above satisfactory.

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6. Multi-Tasking Will Cause Anxiety

I can personally attest to this one. One of the major multi-tasking downsides is the way you start feeling unsettled when you divide your attention. The University of California, Irvine, did a test that measured the heart rates of employees with and without access to office email. Those with access to their emails remained wired up, with higher heart rates, whereas those without it were comparatively stress-free. Would you like to be stress-free? Then stop multi-tasking.

7. Multi-Tasking Will Lower Your IQ

Multi-tasking downsides can include some serious long term consequences. A study at the University of London tested IQs and found that people who multi-tasked suffered similar cognitive deficiencies as people who smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.

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8. Multi-Tasking Will Stop You From Processing

You may be able to read an article while watching TV, but you probably won’t remember the contents of that article in five minutes. The same principle even holds true for eating; if you ate while doing something else your body might not recognize that you’ve been fed, causing you to eat unnecessarily. It’s amazing how varied the multi-tasking downsides are.

9. Multi-Tasking Will Have Potentially Dangerous Consequences

Some forms of multi-tasking are not only detrimental, but could actually be dangerous. For example: texting while driving. Getting back to someone a few minutes sooner isn’t worth your life or someone else’s. When multi-tasking downsides are potentially lethal, avoid the splitting of your attention.

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10. Multi-Tasking Will Stop You From Really Living

If you’re playing with your phone the entire day instead of interacting or just enjoying your surroundings, you’re not truly living. We get caught up in technology and forget to actually participate in society. If that sentence describes you, then change your ways. Stop multi-tasking!

Featured photo credit: close up multitasking man using tablet, laptop and cellphone connecting wifi in the city street urban via shutterstock.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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