Multitasking Effects and Your Mental Health
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However, ongoing research and study found, it has confirmed that multi-tasking link to have negative effects on levels of productivity and overall brain health in some cases. There are many multitasking effects but we have gathered the most common ones that are quite disturbing.
Multi-tasking Is Safe Only If Different Stimuli Are Used
Experts agree that multitasking or task switching is safer if the tasks involved do not use the same stimuli. Such as reading a message from the laptop while listening to music. Our brain is not designed to deal with the same stimulus challenge at the exact same time.
That is why driving a vehicle and texting on a phone at the same time is extremely dangerous. You are using the same visual stimulus. They are both competing for the same limited focus. Although it appears you are multi-tasking, you can only be actively engaged with one or the other.
So instead of doing two things at once, you are actually rapidly switching from one to the other, and back again. If your attention is attracted to the phone for too long, the job of consciously controlling the vehicle ceases, and catastrophe can follow.
Related Article: 10 things to improve productivity and get things done.
Another example is when you are attempting to listen to multiple conversations around you. It is
impossible to listen to two people who are talking to you simultaneously because your auditory stimulus becomes overwhelmed.
Multi-tasking Can Harm Your Memory Ability
If you find yourself multitasking, each task that your mind is engaged in will drain a part of your mental energy. As your mental energy drains, you become more absent-minded. This is because your mind begins to drift, resulting in poor working memory.
Even if you could complete the two tasks successfully, you will quite probably not recall how you completed the tasks. This is because our brain does not have the ability to fully focus on two or several tasks at the same time.
Each time you multitask, your mind becomes a juggling act. When you multitask, you are diluting your mind’s investment towards each task, which relatively affects your term memory,
When Multi-taskers Think They Perform Better
A study headed by Zheng Wang of Ohio State University shows that people who were text messaging while asked to focus on the images displayed on a computer monitor had decreased levels of performance.
What makes this finding even more troubling is that those subjects who were asked to multi-task using the same visual stimulus believed they performed better. Although the results showed the opposite.
Their ability to focus on images displayed on their computer monitor plummeted up to 50% even though they thought they were performing perfectly.
The same study participants were asked to multi-task using different stimuli, such as visual and auditory, and were found to have reduced levels of performance as much as 30%.
Professor Wang stated that performance level perception when multi-tasking is not the same, as the results proved.
Researchers have also found that media multi-tasking increases your risks of developing impaired cognitive control. The most current research is confirming that multi-tasking means “performing multiple tasks sub-optimally”.
Unfortunately, in addition to productivity losses, there is a compounding, taxing burden placed on the mental and emotional faculties.
This results in accumulated stress, which is already a very real problem for many, if not most, to some degree.
Although technology today makes it difficult for us to avoid multi-tasking, just make yourself more aware of when it is happening and try to remove the overload on your mind as much as possible.
Is Multitasking Killing Your Focus And Productivity?
Multitasking has a tendency to be praised highly in our society; we’re encouraged to do this by our teachers and our parents when we’re younger, our bosses and superiors as we get older, and even in our daily life. But, is it actually good for us, or is it hurting us?
Our brains are only meant to do one thing at a time. Contrary to what teachers and parents have been telling kids for a long time. According to neuroscientists, we negatively affect our productivity and mental performance when we try to multitask.
Even in the field of experimental psychology, experts believed that the human brain is not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.
In business, employees tend to work for more than one task at the same time.
This is for the reason that they think it is more efficient and effective to do multi-tasking. Although it turns out they will finish the tasks ahead of time, this will still have a negative effect on the human brain.
Multitasking is reducing your efficiency and your mental performance
When we multitask, we’re pulling our attention in too many different directions to be able to devote the necessary focus and attention to the important task at hand.
Earl Miller, MIT neuroscientist and leading expert on human cognition, attention, and learning said: “When we toggle between tasks, the process often feels seamless, but in reality, it requires a series of small shifts.”
When you experience these small shifts as you jump from task to task, you’re draining brain energy and resources. A study conducted by the University of California furthers Miller’s point, discovering that it takes about 23 minutes and 15 seconds for the average person to refocus after being interrupted.
Miller and other neuroscientists recommend avoiding multitasking.
“It ruins productivity, causes mistakes and impedes creative thought […] As humans, we have a very limited capacity for simultaneous thought, we can only hold a little bit of information in the mind at any single moment.”
Multitasking can actually lead to permanent brain damage
A study conducted by the University of Sussex found that “high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex,” the region of the brain that controls empathy and emotions.
This study suggests that multitasking could permanently alter the structure of our brains after continuous use. This mostly applies to multitasking through media devices, in particular, thus causing these multitasking effects.
Multitasking is killing your concentration and focus
The very same regions of the brain that we need in order to stay focused are easily distracted, as well. Every time we multitask, be it scrolling various social media feeds, checking texts or emails, etc., we train our brains to get distracted and easily lose focus.
“Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus. Leading to constantly searching for external stimulation,” according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin.
Just like with drugs and stress, multitasking is addictive. Your brain can get addicted to the rush of dopamine switching tasks and losing focus causes. Once that starts, it becomes increasingly hard to break the habit and kick the addiction.
Multitasking causes you to become overwhelmed and burnt out
Levitin also said that multitasking taxes our brains and drains energy.
“Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose; the same fuel they need to stay on task.
The kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain,” he said.
It may be time to cut back on the multitasking; if you find that your tasks are overwhelming and gets you easily burnt out. It can also leave you feeling constantly tired, even after plenty of rest.
How to prevent this from happening
It can be hard to get out of the habit of multitasking; most of us have had it deeply ingrained in our regular routine since we were small children. There are a few regular practices you can do, however, to help you ease out of it.
- Keep your work area distraction-free; keep cell phones, tablets, etc. out of sight and out of mind.
- Pay attention but focus on one task at a time. Allow yourself a break every hour and a half or so to allow your brain to re-energize and focus better.
- Avoid and stop multitasking at all costs
- Make sure you get enough sleep to recharge and rejuvenate your body.