This post discusses four reminders to ourselves where Multitasking can be less of a benefit and more of a disadvantage.
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This post is my case against Multitasking and a reminder to self for not straining by doing multiple tasks together. Multitasking is indeed a virtue and sometimes feels inescapable. However, taking it too far and making it a habit might yield diminishing returns, to the extent that it can affect our ability to focus well and being mindful [T5 Wellness, Sears, et al. 2017].
Why avoid excessive Multitasking?
Our minds can not handle many things at a time, and frequently switching between them can lead to cognitive overload [Nicholas Carr, “Why the human brain can’t multitask, 2017.]” Therefore, Multitasking as a habit to the extent that we can’t do one thing at a time can lead to what Neuroscientists call “split focus attention fatigue.” [The healthy Brain book, Sears & Fortansce, 2020]
Multitasking was one of the challenges I mentioned in my article on meditation. If interested, please read the article here: “6 meditation challenges and how I overcome them.“
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4 reminders to avoid excessive Multitasking
This post is less of an advice and more of sharing the reminders I give myself. With that, let’s dive into four essential reminders where I stop myself from Multitasking with tremendous benefit.
1. Close unnecessary browser windows
Having less than three browser windows open at a time sounds simple to do, but has been a challenge for me. I wouldn’t close multiple browse windows, hoping that I have to get back at some point. What is the problem, you ask? These multiple windows not just show up in our browser, but also take mental space.
Therefore, when I notice more than three windows open these days, I do a quick scan and close the ones not needed. Slowly, this simple act of cleaning up the browser shows in the gain of productivity and mental peace.
2. Avoid working while speaking on the phone
When we talk to someone, there can be an urge to cook in parallel or work or browse social media. Occasionally it is okay, but a habit can be detrimental – reduces the attention to both the things: the conversation and what we are trying to do. The best thing I have come to understand now is that a walk, preferably outdoors, goes best with long(er) phone calls.
3. Avoid the phone while playing with the child
Being distracted on our phones is a trap, especially when playing with the child. Say there are pauses where the child seems to be engaged in solving a puzzle or building blocks independently – we grab our phone to quickly check emails or messages. It feels innocuous, but (a) the child senses it, and (b) we miss the moment where our mind had an opportunity to rest. If we are truly present, it is far more rewarding!
4. Keep a ‘key-thoughts notepad’ handy
These days, when I have a new actionable thought, I try not letting it distract me entirely. I either record the idea on my phone or write down on the notepad in a few seconds, close it and visit it later. Then, come back to what I was doing – in a nutshell, avoid parallel processing.
Seen individually, none of the above might appear significant drainers. However, combined during a day and then days, multitasking as a habit or urge is better kept at bay. Sometimes, we are waiting for the file to download, we fill in with social media. Instead, please consider stretching or sitting at calm.
For our emotional, mental, and thereby physical healths, avoiding excessive Multitasking can be very useful. Please consider it.