Focus: Multitasking is a Myth

Multitasking makes you less productive because it makes you more prone to errors, adds stress to your work, takes longer because it costs you time and attention to switch between tasks, and even affects your memory. - Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

Multitasking is in fact one of the great myths of the 21stCentury. It’s a phrase that many people pride themselves on. Glance at someone working in a coffee shop or cubicle and you can often see screens constantly flitting from social media to work to online shopping and back to work.

But in reality, multitasking is just tasking poorly; it’s a series of single engagements performed in rapid succession. The brain toggles between tasks very quickly, giving the impression that it is focusing on them all at once. The misconception is that this might somehow increase efficiency. Instead, we see decreased output and increased mental fragmentation, since no one task remains in the frame of focus for very long. This method of attention allows for very little actual knowledge retention and produces a high level of stress in the brain,[1] which is in a state of hyper-alert anticipation.

Although our minds are elastic, they are not designed to perform multiple complex chores at once. Meditation helps train the brain to focus deeply on a single object (usually the breath). Boredom during this exercise is in fact just the sign of a short attention span. We learn through meditation to have the capacity for extended, meaningful focus.

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[1]See: Small, G. & Vorgan, G. (2008). iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind. New York: HarperCollins.

Liam McClintockComment