Try this: Say the letters abcdefg and then the numbers 1234567 in succession. Now, say a1b2c3d4e5f6g7. See how much longer that took? Switching between two tasks causes your brain to slow down, according to economist and management consultant Caroline Webb, who uses this example in her book How to Have a Good Day. One professor and psychologist at the Human Information Procession Laboratory at Vanderbilt University even found that people working on two tasks simultaneously took up to 30 percent longer and made twice as many errors as those who completed the same tasks in sequence. Schedule your day into segments where you can try to focus on one task at a time. Check out these effortless ways to be more productive.
Studies have found that people can only understand 1.6 conversations at a time—and our own inner monologues already count as one. “If you’re in an office where you can overhear one person talking right next to you, they’re taking up one of your 1.6,” sound expert Julian Treasure said on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. “Unless you put headphones on, that person’s conversation is inevitably going to be decoded in your brain because we’re programmed to decode conversation.” These are some of the most annoying speaking habits, according to science.