Our Brains Are not Designed to Multitask

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Do you often get frustrated that you can’t do two things at once, like talk on the phone and write a letter at the same time? Or attempt to have a conversation with someone while reading something and get confused as to who’s saying what?  Well, no longer do you need to feel bad about it as MIT neuroscientist, Earl Miller, confirms that our brains just simply aren’t designed to be able to multitask and that we just shouldn’t even attempt it.

The advice that’s given is that multitasking is actually counter-productive as it causes mistakes which may lead to diminished productivity. So, basically, just don’t bother. This may be hard as our brains like to trick us into thinking we can do more, when in reality we really can’t. Because multitasking requires toggling between two or more tasks our brain has to take the time to adjust and re-adjust every time the different tasks are encountered. This can become very tiresome for the brain and is where mistakes happen.

So, you may be wondering why we feel the need to multitask if it really is so bad.  Well, the answer lies in evolution. In prehistoric times it would have been necessary for us to use our senses to gain valuable information about our surroundings and act upon it.  For example if there was a rustling, we would refocus our attention to see what it was to avoid being hunted. Today, we don’t really need to do that, so our brains have readjusted and evolved.

To try and avoid the temptation of multitasking, the first step is to remove any temptations from you when working on one task. This could be turning off your phone, or the TV, or even shutting down your email if need be. If you find your concentration levels are dropping, then take a break and move around. Just tackle one job at a time and you will find productivity increases no end.

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