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The limitations of multitasking

By Mia Walker

The basic belief behind multitasking is that you’re able to maintain focus on two or more things at the same time. The problem is that multitasking is more detrimental than beneficial. Research tells us that when we multitask our brain is switching rapidly between multiple tasks to the point where it appears simultaneous, but in reality, our brain is only able to handle one task at a time. Neuroscientist and world-renowned expert on divided attention, Earl Miller, says “our brains are not wired to multitask”. There is a cognitive cost in switching repeatedly from one task to another as our brains are just not designed to process information in this way.

Reduced Focus

When we engage in multitasking, our attention is divided among different activities. The human brain is not designed to handle multiple complex tasks simultaneously effectively. Instead, it tends to switch rapidly between tasks, leading to reduced focus and concentration. This constant shifting of attention can impair our ability to fully engage with each task, resulting in a superficial understanding or incomplete work.

Decreased Productivity

While multitasking may create an illusion of productivity, research suggests that it actually slows us down. When we switch between tasks our brain needs time to refocus on the new task, leading to delays and inefficiencies. Consequently, it takes longer to complete tasks when multitasking compared to when we focus on one task at a time.

Impaired Memory and Learning

Multitasking can also hinder our ability to retain information and learn effectively. When we divide our attention, our brain has difficulty encoding and consolidating memories. This can lead to forgetfulness and a reduced capacity to absorb new knowledge. By dedicating focused time to a single task, we allow our brain to fully process information and enhance our memory and learning capabilities.

Multitasking is counterproductive, it is virtually a myth, and attempting it is incredibly harmful to your productivity.

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