Multitasking: The biggest enemy of success

We live in a world of abundance. We can access our desires with just a few clicks and have the most spare time compared to the era of our ancestors. There are numerous benefits, particularly in material luxury. However, our modern lifestyle has advantages as well as disadvantages.

A typical day passes with work, errands, and kids, and we need to constantly joggle in between getting things done. Of course, we need to multitask to a certain extent to manage our lives. However, excessive multitasking is the enemy of productivity and mental vitality.

Multitasking can help to get things done in the short term; however, it can be destructive to productivity in the long term. If you need to multitask, the ideal is to chunk unrelated activities like studying and doing the dishes. It might save you time in the long term.

Why is avoiding multitasking healthy for the mind?

Recent studies on multitasking highlighted that engaging in intense multitasking might be hazardous for the mind. According to a study, multitasking is associated with reduced gray matter density in the brain regarding the areas of cognitive control and regulation of motivation and emotion.

There is also other scientific research that highlights the potential harms of multitasking to memory and behavioral distractibility.

Using smartphones can be dangerous

Smartphones have become part of our lives. Not only do we use it as an entertainment device, but we also carry out daily tasks like shopping and banking. In some countries (i.e., the Netherlands), you can pay with your phone or watch, like on public transportation and many other things. Smartphones are great sources of distraction with the flow of all the notifications, emails and messages. It forces us to multitask constantly, regardless of space and time. In Korea, there are signs everywhere reminding people not to look at their smartphones. The government tries to discourage people from looking at their smartphones.

To avoid pedestrian distraction, the ideal is to stay away from the phone. Try to use a credit card for payments instead of a phone wallet. Also, the ideal is not to listen to music on the street or listen with a reasonable voice that should not prevent blocking the environment’s sound. Not listening to music is also beneficial; it will not overload your brain with music.

State of flow and it’s benefits

Flow is a mental state initially described by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, who is one of the leading figures in positive psychology. Flow means pure focus; a person is extremely immersed in the moment of activity. It is a state of mind in which a person is immersed currently, and it can be a productive or a non-productive task.

To be able to get into the flow, the task should be challenging but not too difficult, have a clear goal, have meaning for the person, be rewarding, the person should feel progress over time, the feedback should be instant, and the person should have control over the task. There could be a wide variety of tasks that a person can get into the flow state. For instance, engage in sports like tennis, soccer, dancing and running.

Research suggests that the feeling of flow is related to happiness and satisfaction.

According to the brain studies, when people are in flow state, the prefrontal cortex activity is decreased, which is the region involved in executing higher-order activities and also the sense of time.

Multitasking is the enemy of getting into a state of flow. Too much switching between tasks brings distraction and reduces satisfaction and happiness.

How to get the most satisfaction from tasks and achievements?

Train your brain to focus: Our brains can be monkeys that jump all over, and certain training, like daily meditation, can help to calm and sooth them. Dedicate around 10 minutes every morning to train your brain to focus. Here is a guided meditation video that can improve your focusing skills. Here is an informative article on how to start meditation.

Question why the task is meaningful to you: Before doing this task, it is important to acknowledge what it means to you? Do you really want it? Does it give satisfaction to you? What outcome would you get out of it? Is your scarification worth it?

Check whether the settled goal is feasible:  Is the task feasible given the time? If the task is too challenging, it will demotivate you through the process, and will create a burden to your life. It is important that the task is aligned with your skills and given time.

Plan before starting: Planning would give you a walk-through on how to proceed. It will also make you aware of how doable a given task is. In a design faculty, there is a method called “pressure cooker,” in which students go over every phase of the user experience design process in a few hours and create a draft on how things should be. This helps them to understand the potential challenges of each phase, and they have an obvious outline to start at the end of the process. 

Avoid unnecessary distractions: Life is full of distractions, and it requires a certain effort to block distractions. A clear distraction is procrastination, and there could be emotional reasons for this. Block your phone, go to a quiet place, and tell your family members not to distract you until the task is finished.

Remember, less is more: Make sure that the items on your to-do list are balanced. You are not a production machine; it should cost a reasonable amount. Also, done is beyond perfect. If it is a book or a document that you are producing, people find simple and straightforward things more interesting than the complicated ones. Less is more manageable and rewarding.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. – Jeff Rich

1 Comment

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