Are you a starting blogger who still thinks they can multi-tasking blog posts together? You can be forgiven if you do. After all, for a while there multi-tasking was the only thing everybody talked about. It was the solution to all our problems. If we would just learn how to do it correctly, then we’d all become more productive, happier, and sexually more appealing. And so everybody jumped on board. Everybody tried to do everything at once. They tried building email lists even while they wrote their blog posts.
And the vast majority have a horrible time of it.
Why is that? Because, like the gluten-free diet thing, people were pulled in by the hype rather than the science. And just like with the gluten-free diet, the science for multi-tasking came down heavily on the other side of the debate. Particularly with hard tasks, it isn’t good for you and it doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. That’s because we’re not actually multi-tasking when we’re doing difficult tasks.
We can only multi-task tasks that we don’t need to consciously do. So, for example, you can eat a sandwich and check our mail, or walk down the street and talk on our phone. That’s because these tasks are not done in conscious awareness. Our subconscious brain can actually multi task quite well. That’s why your heart doesn’t stop when you’re watching a movie.
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The problem is that our conscious awareness, that part of our brain that we use for more difficult tasks like writing a letter, designing an advertising campaign or reading this article (hopefully) can’t be divided up in that way. In psychology it has often been described as a spotlight and as you well know, you can only illuminate one thing at a time in a spotlight.
The thing is, when we’re talking about multi-tasking we’re not talking about eating a sandwich. We’re talking about writing a letter and designing a logo at the same time. That is not possible. Instead, all we can do is swing back and forth rapidly between the one task and the other.
And as each we do so we have to upload what we were doing and download what we are going to do, which requires a lot of mental energy and is highly inefficient.
Multi-tasking can damage the brain
The thing is, we like multi-tasking because it feels good. When we complete a task, our brain gives us a dollop of dopamine. That makes us feel better about ourselves and makes us engage in this type of task more and more. In the process we’re changing our brain processes, however. And we find it harder and harder to focus on one task for long.
A study at the University of London has revealed that if you multi-task your IQ drops, as you think less critically. How much does it drop? About as much as skipping a night or smoking a big joint. And new studies suggest that this isn’t just a temporary drop but if you keep it up for longer, you might actually cause permanent brain damage.
What activities are the worst offenders?
Email is pretty bad – particularly for those of us who get a lot of emails. Did you know what many workers actually spend 28% of their working week on email? What’s more, if you know there is an email waiting for you it can lead to a 10 point drop in IQ.
It isn’t the worst offender, however. Texting has that title. Texting requires an immediate response (or at least we feel that way) and as it’s immediately obvious when we receive a new message. That means our thoughts are interrupted as we’re yanked out of whatever we were doing. Then we have to refocus on what we were up to and try to get as much done as possible until the next message comes in.
How Single-Tasking Boosts Your Writing Productivity
Single tasking is a much better strategy. Here you finish a task before moving on to another. This means turning off all distractions, such as email, phones and social media services. Then you work away the goal you’ve set for yourself, such as writing that blog post.
And then, because you’re trying to single-task and not turn yourself into a social hermit, when you’ve finished the task that you wanted to do, turn on your gadgets, your media and your email and connect, socialize and watch videos of cute kittens or whatever the craze is today.
And then you close it all down again for the next task.
The great thing about this approach is that instead of using these activities as ways to distract yourself and divide your attention, you’re instead using them to reward yourself for a task well done. That will immediately make them more enjoyable and will also help to reinforce your mental processes that allow you to emotionally regulate and stay on target.
It’s such a simple thing, to turn off your connections with the outside world for an hour or two so that you can complete a task. And yet it will raise your productivity immensely. And deep down you know that is true. You just have to look at those days where you tried to do everything at once and look at how much work you actually got done, instead of how busy you felt.
It often isn’t that much.
That won’t happen if you instead devote yourself to single-tasking. You’ll stay on target, get the task done that you’ve set yourself and then move onto whatever else you’ve got planned. And as an added bonus you’ll tire yourself out less and feel less stressed as a result. Yes, that’s right, multi-tasking releases the stress hormone cortisol. That’s right, your multi-tasking might directly be contributing to you feeling stressed out at the end of the day and might well be turning you into a work zombie.
Now what could possibly be the point of that?