In the current challenging environment, ‘busy’ has become the new normal. Some of our working hours have been reduced and/or we are working with less people, yet the number of items on our to-do list seems to still be growing. With more items, less time and potentially less workers, multitasking can feel like a given to keep up with the many different roles that we play. There never seems to be enough time in one day to do everything that we ‘need’ to do.
It is often joked about how men can’t multitask, yet women do it so well. Based on extensive research, the brain cannot multitask, meaning no one can do it.
When we say this, we mean the brain cannot be doing two things at once that require high-level brain function. We can leverage the strength of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind so that the unconscious mind can be focusing on us breathing and our organs working, while the rest of our mind can be thinking or doing something else. The conscious mind also has the ability to focus on something that we regard as low-level brain function while our subconscious mind is thinking of something completely different. Let’s look at an example.
If we were cooking dinner and it was a new recipe that we had never cooked before, and on the tv was the latest episode of Bridgerton. The chances of us being able to follow the recipe within the time frame and make it well, all while paying attention to what is happening between Simon and Daphne is quite slim. This is because it is new information and learning in both tasks making them high-level brain functions.
However, if we were cooking a meal that we have cooked numerous times before, there is a much higher chance that we can take in Bridgerton and get dinner cooked. This is because the cooking a meal that we already know how to do can be done on ‘auto-pilot’ and is low-level brain functioning. Autopilot means we aren’t logically thinking about it and should something alter or not go to our usual plan, it will convert to a high-level task.
When we think we are multitasking our mind is actually jumping from task to task at extreme speed trying to refocus each time on each task. This creates inefficiency and leaves us not only open to error, but also decreases our ability to perform and succeed.
Here are 3 quick tips on how to maximise the strength of your mind to achieve more in your day:
- Minimise interruptions
Yes, I said minimise. We never say remove as interruptions will occur, let’s be realistic. Research says that an interruption (depending on the length and complexity) can take your mind up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus. That’s a long time! So even if you can decrease your interruptions by 2 per day, you have the potential of gaining 46 minutes and 30 seconds back into your day.
- One touch
Once you have looked at, opened an email, or picked up a task, set yourself a rule that you cannot put it down until it is completed. Go with the thought of ‘you touched it, you own it so do it!’ This keeps our mind focused. It’s easy to get caught up in how ‘busy’ we are and go round in circles looking at all the things we have to do. Don’t let the overwhelm consume your time and focus, take it one task at a time.
- Get your Dopamine Hit!
To-do lists work for most people because of the hit of dopamine we get every time we tick off an item. Dopamine is a chemical inside our brain that is released each time we achieve something. It gives us the motivation to focus on the next item as we crave that feeling again. Listing our tasks on paper and chunking them down to smaller actions allows more hits of dopamine which equals more motivation and focus.
So don’t wait until ‘Single Tasking Day’ on 22nd February, stop trying to multitask. Instead leverage the strength of the most amazing organs in our body by working with our brain and the way it functions rather than against it.
This is truly how we work smarter and not harder.