Are you listening to music while reading this article? Perhaps you’re reading this article in the middle of answering e-mails. You probably don’t think this is too harmful since you’re a multitasker anyway. But, research shows that you should probably pause the music or reply to those emails first before returning to read the rest.
Multitasking is not exactly doing multiple things at once, which is how we often perceive it. In reality, our brains just aren’t capable of doing such a thing. Multitasking is closer to doing multiple things one at a time but in rapid succession. This doesn’t sound quite as efficient now, does it? Recent research has shown that multitaskers could be much worse off when it comes to getting things done. And they’re harming themselves along the way. Here’s how multitasking can be bad for yourself.
1. Difficulty Organizing Thoughts
Studies show that people who multitask find it difficult to organize all the thoughts that race through their head as they involve themselves in various activities. This can hinder your workflow and make you slower.1
2. Difficulty Filtering Irrelevant Information
If you’re the kind of person who tends to text or read news articles in the middle of work, it’s possible that you might not be good at filtering out useful information that you might need. Multitaskers tend to allocate the same level of attention to all their tasks.2 Since you’re exposing yourself to so many different sources of stimuli, it’s not surprising that you can’t shut out what you don’t need.
3. Slowness When Switching Tasks
Like we mentioned, multi-tasking is essentially doing multiple things one at a time but in rapid succession. You’d think that someone who’s used to doing this would be good at switching between different tasks. However, studies show that multitaskers are actually slower at doing this than people who do things one at a time.3
4. Reduced Performance And Efficiency
Studies conducted show that multitaskers are less likely to be able to recall and retain any of the information that they were exposed to. Multitasking, contrary to popular belief is actually less productive and less efficient.4
5. Lowered IQ
Research showed that people who multitasked did worse on cognitive tests. In fact, their IQ points based on the test results dropped to the level of an 8-year-old. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to turn on the television or stereo while drafting emails to your superiors or making important financial calculations for your company.5
6. Lowered EQ
Studies show that people who multitask often have damage in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for empathy and other markers of emotional intelligence, otherwise measured in emotional quotient(EQ). EQ is said to be extremely important for a successful career. Leaders in the corporate world often score high on their emotional quotient.6 If you tend to multitask, it’s possible you’re hurting your own prospects of moving forward in your career.
Now that you have the facts, you can make the choice for yourself. Perhaps it’s time to unplug your headphones and really pay attention before settling down to write that report.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑3||Lin, Lin. “Breadth-biased versus focused cognitive control in media multitasking behaviors.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 37 (2009): 15521-15522.|
|↑4||Ophir, Eyal, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner. “Cognitive control in media multitaskers.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 37 (2009): 15583-15587.|
|↑5||Janssen, Christian P., Sandy JJ Gould, Simon YW Li, Duncan P. Brumby, and Anna L. Cox. “Integrating knowledge of multitasking and interruptions across different perspectives and research methods.” (2015): 1-5.|
|↑6||Loh, Kep Kee, and Ryota Kanai. “Higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex.” Plos one 9, no. 9 (2014): e106698.|