The world that we live in promotes multi-tasking. Success is often defined as the amount you can get done in 1 day. If you can tick lots off from your to do list, then it’s deemed to be a good day. And, if you can do 10 things at once then it’s even better!! On such days you feel a real sense of achievement.
However, have you ever stopped to think about the consequence this could be having on your body and your life?
A wonderful lady told me recently about a talk she went to given by a leading Endocrinologist here in Dublin. This expert reported that the biggest problem she was finding with her clients was burn out caused by multi-tasking. She said that if there’s one thing that she would like to change in the world is this need to get as many things done as possible at the same time. The body isn’t made to multi task and when we do, it’s goes into a stressful state. This means that adrenaline is produced, oxygen is only delivered to only part of the brain and some of our mental reasoning abilities shut down. How then, can we even expect ourselves to do the things that we need to do well, when our body is in this state?
When the experts in the medical field are telling us its bad for our health I think we really need to start listening. Sure you know yourself how it feels when you’re tackling many things at once. That level of stress is all to familiar and often leads to overwhelm, so why is it that we’re still doing it? What are the benefits?
Actually, there are none. Zero.
There has been quite a bit of research done on this, one from Stanford University and they found that when you multi-task, it takes longer, you make more mistakes, and it’s more stressful. Also, it:
- Reduces efficiency
- Decreases quality
- Decreases effectiveness and performance
- Hampers creativity
- Rewires the brain
- Kills overview (we literally can’t see the wood for the trees)
- Reduces well-being (increases stress)
- Drains energy
Are you a multi-tasker? You might not think that you are and I didn’t really think I was until I realised one day some time ago, well….. I found that I was reading an email, writing a text, having a conversation, thinking about dinner and listening to the radio all at the same time! When I stopped to think about it I saw how I was only giving a part of my attention to each one.
Consider this: If you’re doing 10 things at the same time, you’re only really giving 10% of your energy to each one. 10% of you energy on your work, on your emails, on your conversations.
Imagine what a better, more comprehensive job you would do if you gave 100% of your attention to every single thing that you did? Wouldn’t it mean that you would:
- make better decisions,
- perform better in work,
- listen to what people are saying,
- pay attention to the world around you
- stress less, sleep better and feel better
- have more time to do the things that you love as you’d be more effective in every thing that you did.
Over a 20 year period, Edward M Hallowell studied executives capacity to pay attention: to an email, a conversation, a meeting, etc. He found and reported in the Harvard Business review,
“Modern office life and an increasingly common condition called “attention deficit trait” are turning steady executives into frenzied underachievers”
That is, the more you do at the same time the less successful you are. Just the opposite of what the world has been telling us. Mr Hallowell is telling us that the more you pay attention to each thing you do, 1 at a time, the more you will achieve in your life.
How do you stop? Well you stop! Simple as that! You make the intention to just do 1 thing at a time! And you keep doing 1 thing at a time until after 3 weeks, it will become a habit.
Rasmus Hougard has an excellent presentation on this on you tube. It’s worth looking at as he shows you just how multitasking can be detrimental to your health and how you can bring the Mindfulness training of “just do 1 thing” into your every day life.
If you would like to learn mindfulness for yourself, then I’ll be starting a 6 week course in Jan. More details here