Multitasking Made Me Crazy

Dilbert-MultitaskingI’m learning how NOT to multitask.  I recently attended a class about mindfulness at work.  Some of what I learned jolted me.  Multitasking is a myth.  I know that to be true, and yet it’s a way of life in the tech industry of which I am a part.  All of us, in our high stress jobs, do it all the time.  We know it doesn’t work.  We can tell by all the times information had to be repeated during a meeting when someone was multitasking.  (If you don’t believe that multitasking is a myth, there is a fun test you can take at the end of this post.) 

So it’s a myth.  We still all attempt it so, what’s the big deal?  It turns out that even though we can’t do it, the brain still tries really, really hard.  Due to the amazing ability of the brain to rewire itself (neuroplasticity), it’s actually reworking itself to become more unable to focus on one thing at a time.  It’s creating its own attention deficit structure.  That scared me.multitasking_rounded

I don’t know what the teacher’s research is to support that, and I don’t really care.  I know that over the past five years or so I’ve become more and more scattered, jumping from one thing to another, then back again, then on to something else.  I’m a mental grasshopper, and that’s not such a fun thing to be. I was losing my ability to focus.

At one point I thought that maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’m only 62 and that’s not old.  Not yet.  Not for me.  So what was happening?  As the years have gone by, my job has forced me to multitask more and more as I handled multiple projects and teams, with different deliverables and deadlines.  I’d come home from work and watch TV while I was on my iPad, my bad habits following me everywhere.  I never did one thing at a time.  I was rewiring my brain, creating my own little ADD world.

I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m keeping it a lot simpler.  I find that simpler had two immediate benefits:  I could sleep better because my brain wasn’t full of chatter, and I was able to see all the silly stuff that didn’t need my attention.  Now I pick and choose what to focus on and let the silly stuff fall away.  You’d be surprised to find out how much time and energy you devote to things that seem important but that really aren’t.

I haven’t mastered the “one focus” rule yet, as evidenced by the nine browser tabs I have open right now.  I confess to still finding it hard to go to the bathroom without a book or iPhone in hand.  I tell myself it’s to combat boredom, but it’s really a hangover of multitasking that I have to shut down.  Baby steps, baby steps!

You can take the multitasking-exercise.  It only takes a couple of minutes, but it will prove to you the myth of multitasking.  Thanks to Dave Crenshaw for the info.

Sending you some mental peace and quiet.

Hi.  I’m Chris.  I’m an introvert.  All of my postings tend to reflect my introvert world in some way or another.  Join me and like minded introverts for a special slant on the world.

4 thoughts on “Multitasking Made Me Crazy

  1. I find that I multitask less and less. It tired me out. There are a few times I do: talking on the phone and doing dishes, etc.. But if something requires my attention, I let it have my attention. It’s probably easier for me than most people because I don’t carry a cell phone. 🙂

  2. Very interesting article, Chris. Thanks! I’m not good in multitasking. Many of my friends can cook 3 or 4 dishes at the same time. I always ended up burning one when I tried to cook two. 😉

  3. This is quite scary. When I stop to think about how I spend my days, I can see you’re absolutely right. Thanks Chris; I’ll start thinking about how I can learn to re-focus. Cheers, Su.

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