Your modern job calls for doing anything. Not just anything, in fact – everything. At once. Emailing while on the phone, nodding to your boss, co-worker, or employee while writing frantically a separate note for later – does this sound like a normal snippet of your day?
Not to mention when you get home – you and your family text while watching TV, looking up the World Series team stats on your smartphone (should you be so lucky to be a fan)…
You’ve often pondered whether or not your attention deficit is disease-related, or just a symptom of a confusing lifestyle. While pharmaceuta-cologists would have you running to your therapist for a new batch of “Why? Why not!”-vanse, the reality is the problem is not with just your brain, but everyone’s brains. Humans are simply not made to efficiently shift between tasks in a high performance manner. Like our computers, the brains processing ability is limited, and unfortunately, we as a species need an upgrade to keep up with the machines we have built to ease our lives (right!).
The evidence against multi-tasking and efficiency is quite prevalent. According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, students who switched between subjects when doing math problems had a much harder time completing each task – as much as 40% slower.
Additionally, Gloria Mark, a scientist at the University of California, discovered that people who are forced to switch between tasks work faster, but produce much less work. The upshot? People become significantly more stressed out. Cortisol – or stress hormone – levels increased significantly after just 20 minutes of multi-tasking. In addition to that, we release adrenaline, making us feel angry and flustered.
This social issue goes so far as to affect how we learn – and is particularly prevalent in our youth and childhood development. If the brain is distracted by say, watching TV and reading a book at the same time, our brains store information in the wrong area of the brain. When they should be storing in the hippocampus, they go instead to the striatum, the region for new skills that is not very good at retrieving facts and ideas.
Ultimately, scientists have discovered that multi-tasking prevents our brains ability to form necessary neural connections. It lowers our work quality and can change the overall shape of the brain.
The truth is, machines were originally invented to help us minimize our work requirements, not maximize our work-ability at a single unit of time. The difference between these two functions and goals is significant – our brain simply cannot handle multi-tasking the way a computer can run multiple programs at once. That is why we have them. There are endless efficiency programs that can automate tasks that may eat your time on a daily basis – be it emailing, storing files, scanning, printing, and even making sure digital documents get to the right location. It’s all about efficiency. The human brain was made to focus. Let the machines do the work.