In a study out of the Journal of Communication, researchers showed how media multitasking not only makes for poorer cognitive performance and makes us less effective at home and work. It turns out that even the idea of multitasking is a myth. In an interview with the National Institute of the Clinical Applications of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), Dan Goleman, PhD, author of the recent bestselling book Focustalks about how the concept of multitasking is a myth, why it makes us less effective and how we can get more focus.
You can watch this one hour interview free on Wednesday February 5th, 2014. This series also lines up Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Daniel Amen, Bruce Lipton, Helen Fisher, among others.
It turns out that according to cognitive science the brain cannot handle more than one task at a time. Multitasking is a process of incredibly fast switching of attention. Just like a computer that has many programs open, when the brain multitasks and rapidly shifts back and forth the performance ultimately goes down.
When we rapidly switch from one task to another, it takes some time to get our full focus back onto each task. In other words, we likely never truly get our full focus back leaving us open to making more errors that not only takes more time to correct, but also ups our stress.
When we’re under stress, our brain wants to avoid the stress and so it will check out and do unimportant things like answer emails, check Facebook, or engage any other distractions. This either exacerbates the multitasking or just takes us away from what matters which only adds to our stress.
What are three tips to strengthen your focus?
  1. Start your day with some grounding – This can be a short or longer meditation first thing in the morning. Or maybe it’s slowing things down and being more mindful about the tasks you have in the day (preparing breakfast, eating breakfast, taking a shower, engaging with your family or roommates).
  2. When working reduce distractions – If you’re working on a project, turn off your Smartphone and email for a period of time. In The Now Effect I talk about having an email meditation where the email is your point of focus for a specific period of time. Whenever you find your mind wandering off to anything else, you just note that, take a breath and gently bring your attention back to the email.
  3. Don’t forget to rest – The brain works very hard during the day and needs times to rest in order to reboot.
Practice these few things a day and you’ll likely find yourself calmer, more content and confident at what you do.
There’s even a good chance that you’ll be more effective at multitasking than you were in the past.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.