I’m not quite sure when multi-tasking became a badge of honor, but it’s definitely something that has become more and more the norm. The illusion behind multi-tasking is that you think you are able to effectively complete more than one task more efficiently. Research however, has proven that moving from task to task actually slows you down and increases the odds of making mistakes. Whether you’d like to acknowledge it or not, your brain can truly only focus on one thing at a time so you’re not really accomplishing more than one thing at a time.
Health wise, a major disadvantage of multitasking is the added stress it puts on you. Researchers have found that people’s heart rates are actually higher when they multitask. In addition, having your attention spread over many things at once actually reduces your short-term memory, as well as the density of your brain’s anterior cingulate cortex. This is due to the production of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex.
Emotionally, multitasking causes you to be distracted and actually lowers your EQ (Emotional Quotient). Research has proven that multitasking lowers both your self and social awareness. According to Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence and more, emotional intelligence is a trait not measured by IQ tests—it’s instead a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships. He suggests that emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success in life than family, socioeconomic status and IQ.
So, what does this mean and how can we use this information to help us personally and professionally?
- Without awareness, you may not notice that seeing your coworker instantly upsets you because you feel unappreciated and taken for granted.
- Without conscious awareness, you may not notice that your angry response to an event isn’t really about the current event but really has to do with something that happened years ago that was never handled appropriately.
- Without awareness, someone cutting you off in traffic ignites an old wound of not being respected
When we don’t multitask and aren’t fragmented, we are not only more aware of those around us, but we are also better able to understand how we respond when emotions arise and where these emotions come from. This allows us to better manage and work with ourselves and others.
Because multi-taking is so prevalent, it wasn’t surprising that during my doctoral study on betrayal, the very first stage identified had to do with an imbalance between our mental/physical focus and our emotional/spiritual focus. Through no fault of our own, this lack of awareness is the perfect breeding ground for the shock of “I never saw it coming”. We are so busy, so fragmented, so stressed by the demands of life, that our self and social awareness is simply not there. Very often, women in my study said they just didn’t see the clues- something that is completely understandable when you’re just too busy to have rich, meaningful interactions with yourself, let alone others.
Monotasking and making yourself a priority is key to having a centered, well-balanced, and fulfilling life. Even when flying with a small child, the flight crew instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first- before assisting anyone else.
So take a look at all the different areas of your life. How do you make yourself a priority? Are you giving to everyone else and feeling exhausted and depleted when you finally get to your needs?
Imagine how it would feel, how effective it would be, if you focused on a single venture at a time- concentrating on the task at hand, engulfing your body, mind, and soul in what you were actually doing in a given moment? Could you really concentrate on a single goal at a time and be successful? The answer is a resounding yes!!
Now, imagine yourself addressing these tasks when you are at your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual best.
- You will probably be more effective
- You will also be more efficient.
- You will be more focused
- You will less likely make a mistake.
- You will be less stressed and more centered.
- Your brain won’t be switching from one activity to the next.
- You’re more likely to derive pleasure from what you are doing.
- You’re more likely to have more fulfilling interactions with others.
Refraining from multi-tasking doesn’t mean that your other ventures won’t get accomplished, it simply means that you’ll get them done, one at a time, without feeling overwhelmed and fragmented. In addition, it will help you to set your priorities and achieve a healthy work life balance.
How would making yourself a priority and monotasking enrich your life? I would love to know, comment and share!
P.S. Have you experienced a betrayal and didn’t see it coming? Do you suffer from Post Betrayal Syndrome? Take my quiz and find out.