Why Multitasking Is Far worse than you Might think

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It is a widely known fact that multitasking does not increase our productivity. Although this myth is disproved, many people still practice it.

There is a reason why we still multitask, even when its effects can harm us badly.

Let’s dive in.

The definition of multitasking

When speaking of multitasking, we often mean task switching.

Task switching is when you — as the name suggests, switch between tasks in a short amount of time. E.g., switching between writing an email and reading a book every 30 seconds.

While walking and talking is no problem at all. Activities that require a more in-depth focus cannot be multitasked. Programming a website and writing a blog needs task switching, but this is usually what we call multitasking.

Why multitasking do you harm

Here are three reasons why multitasking is damaging for you:

1. Attention Residue

When switching tasks, some of your attention will stay on the previous task for a specific time. While in this state, you are unable to focus on the current work entirely.

This phenomenon is called as “Attention residue” and it is also the reason why multitasking decreases your productivity immensely.

Switching back and forth on multiple tasks will ensure that you always got attention residue. You will not be able to give your full attention to a one task.

2. Release of Cortisol

Multitasking releases hight amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.

High levels of cortisol have multiple adverse effects on the body and psyche, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Poor sleep
  • … much more

3. Release of Dopamine

When doing multitasking, another neurotransmitter gets released: Dopamine, the feel-good hormone.

We tend to think that we are productive when we multitask. That’s because we perform small steps in multiple things in a short timeframe.

Every time we make a small success, dopamine gets released, and our brain gets tricked into thinking that we are productive. Which is not the case!

Even if your brain might tell you to multitask, don’t do it. Know it better!

Permanent Damage

Now we get to a scary point.

A study of the University of Sussex shows a correlation between a shrink of gray matter and media multitasking.

While the effects of media multitasking are still undiscovered, it may be the case that individuals with more massive use of media multitasking perform worse in cognitive control tasks.

… Individuals with higher Media Multitasking Index (MMI) scores had smaller gray matter density …
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25250778/

While this is just a correlation, it is still notable that multitasking affects our brain in ways we might not know about.

How to safe yourself from multitasking

It is wide known knowledge that multitasking is not beneficial, but that does not prevent people from still doing it.

Probably the most prominent device that ensures you don’t focus on your task is your phone.

When working, make sure to set your phone to silent mode. A vibration sound while working is the perfect killer for your focus.

Social media is another focus killer. You will pay the price for “just looking one short YouTube video.”
The important thing here is self-control. If you catch yourself opening a twitter tab while working, stop it.

Summary

Multitasking does not only makes us unproductive, it also causes harm to your body and psyche.

It will decrease your productivity because of the attention residue, increases your stress levels while let’s you to believe that you are productive because of the released dopamine.

It is a bad game to play.
Stop it.

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Just an aspiring game developer — I write about game development, art and other things that come to my mind.

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Tim Engelke

Tim Engelke

Just an aspiring game developer — I write about game development, art and other things that come to my mind.

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