How to Escape the Multitasking Trap - 3 Simple Steps to Release Stress and Improve Performance
How often do you get caught up in the hectic swirl of trying juggle six tasks at once, only to do none of them well?
“If I only push harder”, you say to yourself.
“Yes, I will redouble my effort and do even more so all of these tasks get done!”.
The Truth About Multitasking
Here’s a seldom heard truth: The parts of your brain handling conscious procedural tasks typically associated with day-to-day cognitive activities aren’t wired for multitasking. Your brainstem and midbrain sections handle parallel processing tasks with ease. The prefrontal cortex, that brain region where conscious cognition occurs, handles one task at a time.
What is actually happening when you think you’re multitasking? Your attention is moving rapidly from one activity to another. Five seconds here, three seconds there, and 10 seconds to several minutes of confusion trying to figure out what to do next.
With each transfer of attention, there is performance friction. There is a time and brain energy cost every time you change focus. We are serial processors trying to make believe we have the ability for parallel processing. We don’t.
Trying to multitask results in your brain using up energy faster than your physiology can recharge the batteries. Your body tries valiantly to keep up, but as your energy wanes, you hit a brain performance wall.
Stress and It’s Effect on the Sympathetic Nervous System
Here we have an old friend named Stress begin knocking on our emotional door. One major stress trigger is the perception that we have too many tasks to complete in a given time time period without the necessary resources.
Under stress the Sympathetic Nervous System, also called the Fight or Flight response, becomes hyperactive. Blood flow to higher brain regions including the Prefrontal Cortex, that area where rational thought normally hangs out, is reduced in favor of energizing large muscle groups in preparation to fight the tiger or run to safety.
The simple fact is we become significantly more stupid when we’re highly stressed. This makes it virtually impossible to perform well any of the tasks we so valiantly attempt to complete.
3 Simple Actions for Better Performance
What are the antidotes for the multitasking trap?
First, recognize multitasking is a myth. Your brain is wired to attend to one conscious task at a time. This is physiological fact.
Second, use what are called Focus Intervals. Schedule ONE task at a time and stick with that task until it’s done or you’ve worked on that task for no more than 45 minutes.
Third, take short, three to five minute breaks every 45 to 60 minutes. Get up, walk around, stretch, run in place, engage in relaxed diaphragmatic breathing, or engage in other energy restorative activities before returning to work.
Want extra bonus points? Turn off your phone and close out from all social media sites. They’re distractions that waste time and take energy away from productive, higher value activities.
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