Multitasking interferes with the brain’s performanceRawpixel.com/Shutterstock
If you think doing multiple things at once shows your smarts, you might be mistaken—research has shown that multitasking only causes us to take longer to do each task. “Multitasking hijacks your frontal lobes, the brain’s higher-order thinking center,” Dr. Chapman says. “When you think you are trying to multitask by doing two or more tasks at the same time, your brain is actually switching rapidly from one task to the other.” Multitasking reduces creativity, increases errors, lowers our ability to focus on what is most important, and increases problems with memory, sleep, and stress, she says. Instead, single-tasking is the way to go to be a high-performer. Here’s how to be more productive in your first hour of work.
The brain can get distractedPhotographee.eu/Shutterstock
The brain isn’t always inefficient when doing two things at once—but when it comes to higher-order thinking, distraction can severely impact the brain’s ability to stay on task. “The main limit arises when both of the tasks require attention—for example, we can carry out a conversation while walking, but if you were walking over a complicated, uneven, and dangerous path, it would be difficult to carry out an involved conversation at the same time,” says psychology professor Steven J. Luck, PhD, director of the Center for Mind & Brain at the University of California, Davis. This is the main reason distracted driving, such as while chatting on a cell phone, is so dangerous. We can’t see the other person on the phone, we might have trouble hearing them, and our brain has to imagine their environment. Driving is often automatic, so “we can do a pretty good job of talking on a cell phone and driving much of the time, but we have problems when the driving suddenly requires attention, for example, when something unusual happens, such as another driver coming to a sudden stop,” Dr. Luck says. Find out how to recognize 12 signs of adult ADHD that go beyond everyday distraction.
The internet is info overload for the brainAfrica Studio/Shutterstock
The brain’s problem with distractions and multitasking could be a reason why studies show too much smartphone and Internet use isn’t good for the noggin. “Technology can be tremendously helpful, but allowing a constant influx of information and distractions can promote an ADHD-like state that exhausts your brain and erodes deep thinking and efficient information absorption,” Dr. Chapman says. “Watch out for ‘Google Brain’ where you constantly look up more and more information—this activity can gobble up mental energy.” Instead, take regular short breaks from screen time and shut off alerts, especially when working on important tasks. Don’t miss these other surprising ways technology is making us stupid.