Multitasking: Too Much Of A Good Thing?

How long can you maintain focus on a single thing?

If you’re like most people, your attention is usually split in various directions—e.g. a conversation with a co-worker, social media on your phone, and a work task.

Many of us pride ourselves on being able to juggle several tasks at once. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet. Evidence shows that those who are inclined to multitask actually significantly inflate their ability to do it well.  

There’s no denying that our brains are built to process vast amounts of information. They are put to the test using several neural pathways at once as we juggle tasks.

But if you’re constantly distracted, it may one of these pathways falling behind. Executive attention is a crucial pathway in self-regulating attention, prioritising, and accessing relevant stored information.

Science shows that some people—due to both genetics and environments—are better at maintaining attention. And those prone to high-sensation seeking are at risk for becoming dependent on juggling several tasks at once.

The good news: research has also shown that executive attention can be improved through meditation.

Though we can use methods to improve our multitasking abilities, overuse is still a concernespecially when it comes to media multitasking.

Near constant exposure to phones and the internet may diminish our ability to maintain focus on any long-term tasks. The concern is so great that compulsive multimedia overuse could (in the future) be labelled as a mental health issue!

Don’t sacrifice your ability to apply yourself by overloading your plate.

Curb unnecessary tasks.

Turn off notifications on your devices and put your phone on airplane mode. This will remove a very unnecessary distraction and allow you to get things done! You’ll have to adjust to not reaching for your phone every few minutes, but in a few days, you’ll feel the difference.

Take the scientific advice and practice meditation.

Integrative Body-Mind Training meditation brings you into a state of restful alertness which helps to improve attention, self-regulation and many neural pathways in the brain.

If you must multitask, use a goal tree.

A goal tree splits tasks into their underlying components. By clearly identifying what needs to be done, you can choose to handle an appropriate amount at one time. It also allows you to prioritise the tasks that can be done efficiently and concurrently.

Our brains may be information-processing machines, but this doesn’t mean we have to push them to the limits. Slow, steady and attentive wins the race!