Why Multitasking is Hindering, Not Helping You at Work

The greatest secret of successful people is that they focus on one thing at a time. This is why they are known for one industry or field. It’s why high profile businessmen such as Seah Moon Ming, the SMRT Chairman, decides to step back from other roles and commitments. They have their own specialisations for a reason. It’s simply their passions and it’s what they are good at. They have knowledge and experience in different fields, but they choose to focus on one thing.

Multitasking in our daily work lives will influence major decisions we have later in our careers. Such major decisions will determine whether we’re on the path to success or failure. Here are the reasons why multitasking at work will not lead to greater success in our careers.

Decreased Focus and Attention Span

Studies show that workers who engage in multitasking are easily distracted. Researchers tested people’s skills in reading and listening, which are two of the most essential tasks when working. But they are also two tasks that people’s attention tends to veer away from. Our need to respond and work on too many things at the same time have drastic effects on our focus. Over time, it influences activities in our brain to be active and responsive even to unimportant things. This is why some people who multitask in their daily lives find themselves losing focus when they receive an e-mail, see a notification from their social media apps, and are immersed in the cacophony of sounds in an office setting.

Memory Impairment

Multitasking has negative impacts on our ability to retain information in the short and the long run. Working on too many things at the same time results in information overload. This is why students are always advised to never ever cram their studies, especially when studying involved memorising. Studies found that those who multitask have problems retaining working memory, which is the ability to retain information about what they’re currently working on. This eventually leads to difficulty in retaining long-term memory.

Stress, Depression, and Anxiety

stressed at work

The toll of multitasking also has effects on our brain chemistry. Doing the activity for a long period of time releases stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline, which is also known as the fight-or-flight hormone. These hormones cause the brain to overheat, much like our overused computers. This release of hormones, in turn, causes migraines and affects our mental processing.

Researchers also found a connection between multitasking and the development of depression and anxiety. Since multitasking leads to less productivity, it affects our ability to complete tasks. And not completing tasks leads to feelings of shame and failure, and low self-esteem.

Alternatives to Multitasking

Organisation is key in avoiding multitasking and cramming. Setting up tasks for the day helps your mind process the work that lies ahead. It helps you mentally prepare yourself. Writing to-do lists can be an annoying task. But it goes a long way so attach it with some of your habits in the morning. Perhaps while you’re having your cup of coffee in the morning.

You can also turn to keep a bullet journal. It helps you keep track of the things you have to do and all the dates that you have to remember. It will guide you so that you don’t end up overbooking your schedule on certain days.

As for employers, it’s important to always take note of what your employees are working on. You must always know how heavy their workload is so that you can gauge if they can take on more tasks or not. Setting up task trackers will go a long way. It ensures that everyone on your team or company is up to speed with the task distribution and deadlines. It’s so that they, too, can mentally prepare themselves for the work.

Being productive has been a growing trend. We spend hours watching videos on YouTube that show a day in the lives of different people. We love watching how a successful doctor, lawyer, or actor stay productive and happy throughout the day. It makes us wonder how they balance healthy relationships and successful careers. We love documentary TV shows such as Abstract and Chef’s Table. They tell us how their passions led to success in their specialisations.

We want to know what their methods and secrets are. But really, we must understand that the best method of achieving the same level of success is balancing our daily work lives. Multitasking won’t help us in building fruitful careers. It will only lead to more stress, less productivity, and even failure.

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