The Real Cost of Multitasking

June 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

multitasking consequences

We’re all guilty of it from time to time. You’re trying to scan through your voicemail while waiting for your coffee, watching a tv show while browsing the internet, or tackling multiple projects at work. We’re getting more done with less time, right? Wrong. Even worse, multitasking can be bad for our health.

According to a study done by the University of Michigan, when participants were asked to multitask, they actually lost time. As the tasks increased in difficulty, the time loss also increased. Underestimating how long a task will take can increase anxiety and stress. Over time, the stress can build, raising blood pressure, increasing cortisol and damaging our health.

The Good News

We can fight it. In fact, if we train our brains to focus on single tasks, we can enjoy improved mental health, well into our 80s. How do we train it?

1. Make a to do list

When you visually see a list of tasks, it’s easier to know which are more urgent than others. We also get the mental satisfaction of crossing off the final check-list for the day.

2. Learn what’s important

Cognitive thinking skills are increased when we know what’s important and store the rest away. Think of it as driving during a rainstorm. Should you focus on the road or your phone?

It’s always great to listen to music at the gym or think about weekend plans while eating breakfast. But when it comes to work, single-tasking is the smarter and healthier way to go.

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Read Next: Zen & the Art of Inbox Management »

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