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The myth of multitasking (and how to quit the habit)

By Faeza
26 April 2016

I can cook dinner, play with my children and reply to text messages. I can multitask. Then one day my little girl said to me, “Mom, play with me with your eyes”

In child language she meant, "pay attention to me". The reality is, I can do all those things, but if I do them all at the same time, I can’t do any of them very well.

We can get a lot done very quickly, but at what cost?

More women now are burned out and stressed than ever before. Depression is the second most debilitating disease in women. Women can have it all, but having it all at once is causing problems.

The brain is not designed to multitask

Research has proven that multitasking is detrimental to our brain. A study at the University of London found that people who multitasked experienced a drop in their IQ similar to a person who missed a night of sleep. Multitasking gives us a false sense of accomplishment. We are busy, but at the end of the day what do we have to show for it?

Quality over quantity

Research has proven that high-quality work is a result of two things - the amount of time you spend on the work and the intensity of your focus during this time. If you can increase your focus, you’ll get more done in less time. You will feel less stressed and confused, and you’ll do a better job.

What am I teaching my children?

What message am I sending my girls, when I can’t put down my phone to have a conversation? When I can’t sit still and just be? When I am constantly in a rush? I know that there are times when multitasking is essential, but multitasking should be the exception, not the rule.

How to quit the habit of multitasking:

Decide when and what to multitask. I need complete focus when I write. I turn off my phone, close my email and shut my door.

When I get home, I switch off my phone and spend quality time with the girls before bath time. While making supper, I multitask. I’ve become aware of when I can multitask and when focus matters.

Do your best to reduce distractions

Close your office door when you need to finish an important project. If you are in an open-plan environment, put on headphones to reduce background noise.

Reduce the interference from your phone by turning off notifications on apps and social media, and remove email from your phone. When you get home from work give your kids and or partner, your undivided attention by turning off your phone.

Plan and prepare

Spend five to ten minutes at the end of your work day planning for the next day. Write down everything you need to do, prioritise the tasks, and schedule them in your calendar. By writing it down you are clearing the mental clutter that could distract you when you get home.

Preparation helps you avoid the trap of mental multi-tasking.