Our brains when we multi-task. Or street art in Salamanca, Spain.
We are a society overloaded with information, and I fear, overloaded with activity. We’re too damn busy, that’s what I think.
I’m thinking of myself, of course, and also some friends I know who are full up with things on their plate. Not even related things–just a random assortment of this and that, all worthwhile, but so many! So many things that eat up their time and energy. That, done at the same time, are killing our brains. Oh, read on for this.
We start something and then something else interesting comes up so we grab on to that (Squirrel!!) but we don’t let go of the first thing. So now we have two interesting activities, but hey! Here’s another, I want to try that! That makes three, and then, naturally, a fourth comes up. But what about organizing the office, renovating the bedroom, hanging with friends? Reading a book? Listening to music? Having romantic time? Being spontaneous?
Or time to just plain relax and reflect?
No time, because we’re too busy. Too damn busy.
And is all that activity really productive? Something has to give and that means that some things we thought were so important months ago are left behind in favor of the new shiny thing.
I’ve seen it in my life and I’ve seen it in the lives of people I know and it is starkly apparent that it doesn’t promote a healthy life. Yet we hang on to it and defend it to the death. Of our brains.
I’ve had to stop to consider:
Is multi-tasking really good for us?
When we were younger, we believed we were great multi-taskers, and maybe we were. At work we were expected to do more and more with less and less. Setting limits for ourselves was NOT part of the game.
I remember being expected at a Saturday morning meeting with my CEO, but the night before I’d had to admit myself to the emergency room with flu. After getting drugs and fluids all night, I went to the meeting looking beat to hell. I mean, seriously? Talk about not being able to set limits. I would make a different decision today.
But that’s the way it was when we were young and climbing the ladder to “success.” We failed to set limits for ourselves. In fact, many employers didn’t want us to.
Now, older and supposedly wiser, the habit is hard to break. We stick to those old ways of living and working. But is that wise?
Research on cognition today tells us that the mind is not made for heavy-duty multitasking. The brain’s not built for it. A Stanford University study showed that multitasking is less productive than doing one thing at a time, and it may even damage the brain and lower your IQ.
The message is clear: The brain loves focus.
The problem with multi-tasking and with overloading ourselves with stuff to do is that we risk not doing any of it well. Stop and consider that.
So. If we were really honest, we’d ask ourselves, what was on our “important to do” list six months ago and is it still there? If it isn’t, what happened to it? And what’s replaced it? How many different things are we trying to do at once? And how committed are we to them — and to the quality of our lives? To health?
How serious are we about any of this?
Those are the questions I’m asking myself. Maybe we should all be asking ourselves the same ones.
But don’t take my word for it. You might read this: Multitasking is Killing Your Brain.