Friends, let me tell you about a little literary element called irony.
According to Alanis Morsette, “It’s like RAAAEEAAAAAAINNN on ya wedding day….”
According to me, it’s like trying to write a post on the dangers of jumping from one task to another, while being interrupted no less than 7 times by your children. “Why yes, precious daughter, I will cut my thought flow short yet again in order to break up the third argument this hour." I feel my words becoming less and less articulate with each subsequent conflict I mediate.
What’s that line again? "Nevertheless, she persisted.” (We women are a resilient bunch—that phrase can be applied liberally over almost all aspects of our lives.)
So here I am, three hours and a few brain cells less later, to give you these profoundly eloquent words:
Multitasking is bad for you.
In case that argument is unsatisfactory, consider Exhibit A: the coherence of this post so far.
On the off chance you need more convincing, I have a few thoughts for you to consider:
Multitasking is the great trick of our modern society.
We live in a fast-paced and relentless world, one that demands higher productivity at lower and lower costs. This culture's insatiable drive seeps into our psyche without our permission. It’s in the air we’re breathing, a part of our lives at the subconscious level. And the result is that we demand more and more of ourselves, always assuming it’s better if we can squeeze in just one more thing. This is a trap. You see, the great equalizer of humanity (besides death) is that we are each only given 24 hours in a day. Being able to squeeze one more thing in to get a leg up is a lie.
Why this need to accomplish more and more? Could it be that we’re measuring our worth based on how much we get done, or how quickly? And have we even stopped to think about the consequences? We think multitasking is the little pill that will help us get ahead, when really it zaps us of our energy, our efficiency, and our human empathy.
Multitasking is the enemy of great work.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, "Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” (And since I found that information on the internet, it’s 100% true and verifiable.)
In all seriousness, as I was having my alone time in prayer this morning, considering my daily habits and schedule, this phrase came to rest in my brain: “Multi-tasking is the enemy of great work.” And, as it turns out, research done by Stanford and the University of London (to name a couple) backs me up.
According to an article by the American Psychology Association, "Multitasking can take place when someone tries to perform two tasks simultaneously, switch from one task to another, or perform two or more tasks in rapid succession.”* For example, I always try to start or switch the laundry, have dinner going, and actively parent my preschooler at the same time. The results are always splendid. (Apparently multitasking still has no effect on my ability for sarcasm. I am available for a case study should anyone desire to research this further.)
In an article published in Forbes, Dr. Travis Bradberry explains that multitasking has long-lasting, detrimental consequences on our brain’s ability to function well. He explains that the research shows multitasking can lower our IQ, our ability to recall information, and can cause substantive brain damage.
The practice we think is allowing us to accomplish more, is actually lowering our productivity, and essentially making us dumber.
Multitasking damages our capacity for empathy.
Just as many thoughtful people have long suspected, checking our phones like a nervous tick has indeed, caused damage to our humanity. Dr. Bradberry writes, "Researchers at the University of Sussex...found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.”**
Our incessant need to get more and more done carries a price: a price we pay by experiencing less and less real connection. When our preoccupation is productivity, we become less attentive to the needs of others. When we are obsessed with crossing many things off our list in a short amount of time, we are less able to engage genuinely with those we love.
If you don’t believe me, unfortunately I could again be your case study. It pains me to admit that I often become addicted to the dopamine of checking things off my to-do list, so much so that I choose that over focused attention or empathy with my kids. I hate that I become swept up in the lie of multi-tasking, and I intend to do something about it.
So in my next post, I’ll be sharing some practical ideas for saying no to multitasking, so that we can say yes to empathy, connection with the people in our lives, and a healthier, more focused life.
Now please excuse me while I jump from this task to go switch the laundry AND break up another fight—Err, I mean, slight disagreement—between my offspring.
P.S. If you see me acting less compassionate than usual, or not being able to supply the answer to a simple addition question, you’ll now know why. Mom’s brains are required to work at lower capacity because of the very nature of their lives, God help us. Kids are literally sucking the “smart” right out of us. If I weren’t a mother, I would’ve had the brain power to write 7 books and probably would’ve won a Nobel Prize by now.
P.P.S. Much like sarcasm, multitasking also seems to have no effect on my ability to hyper-exagerate. As evidenced above.