On Multitasking

"In an attempt to keep up, doing two things at the same time became a popular strategy. People figured that if they could physically do it, they could mentally do it as well. This has proved to be false. We don't have two brains that work independently; we have two hemispheres of one brain that work in unison." - Harold Taylor

Multitasking sounds ideal, doesn't it? Get two or three things done in the time it takes to do one of them alone? What's not to like? Turns out, it's not that easy.

A study discussed on NPR, "Think You're Multitasking? Think Again," tells us what's really happening in your brain when you think you're doing tons of things at once. Instead of having multiple things going at the same time in your brain, different parts of your brain are actually switching from topic to topic - action to action. They are not, in fact, happening at the same time, but rather occurring in short bursts of one task, switching to another, and back again. In turn, that means we tend to be less successful at both tasks. The opposite of what our goal probably is.

Even more upsetting is a study found in Forbes, "Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Your Career, New Studies Suggest." Here we find that this constant switching from task to task lowers our IQ at that moment in time.

Wait, what?

Yep, multitasking makes us dumber. Literally. Because of the constant switching, researchers have shown that the average IQ drops to that of someone who has not slept all night or partaken in drug use - generally landing somewhere around the IQ of an eight year old. My guess is that none of us would feel particularly on our game in that case. Now, the study doesn't actually prove that multitasking damages the brain, but it can show that constant multitasking results in smaller brain density.

So, what's a busy person to do? Take a deep breath. Power through one thing before moving on to the next. Occasionally, we all multitask. Just try not to get too distracted and make a habit of it.

Site design by Ryan G. Wilson Amy Trager, © 2006-2015