Multitasking Is Hazardous to Your Health

I have recently been reading a lot about multitasking and how it can be bad for your health.  We all know that you cannot really do a good job of multiple things at the same time (think the ultimate no-no: texting while driving!) Many people believe in our too fast paced world that they need to try to multitask whenever possible in hopes that they can actually get more done than is humanly possible.  Turns out not only is it a bad idea, but it can be bad for you and others around you as well.

We all know texting while driving is not only dangerous to you but everyone else on the road with you!  Did you also know that multitasking is actually bad for your brain?

I recently read an excellent article by Dr. Travis Bradberry (the Coauthor of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0 & President at Talent Smart) His article is titled:

Why Successful People Don’t Multitask.  I will share the best parts of that article here:

You may have heard that multitasking is bad for you, but new studies show that it kills your performance and may even damage your brain. Every time you multitask you aren’t just harming your performance in the moment; you may very well be damaging an area of your brain that’s critical to your future success at work.

Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

A Special Skill?

But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.

Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

Multitasking Lowers IQ

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.

Brain Damage From Multitasking?

It was long believed that cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but new research suggests otherwise. Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

While more research is needed to determine if multitasking is physically damaging the brain (versus existing brain damage that predisposes people to multitask), it’s clear that multitasking has negative effects.

The EQ Connection

Nothing turns people off quite like fiddling with your phone or tablet during a conversation. Multitasking in meetings and other social settings indicates low Self- and Social Awareness, two emotional intelligence (EQ) skills that are critical to success at work. TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers have high EQs. If multitasking does indeed damage the anterior cingulate cortex (a key brain region for EQ) as current research suggests, doing so will lower your EQ while it alienates your coworkers.

Bringing It All Together

If you’re prone to multitasking, this is not a habit you’ll want to indulge—it clearly slows you down and decreases the quality of your work. Even if it doesn’t cause brain damage, allowing yourself to multitask will fuel any existing difficulties you have with concentration, organization, and attention to detail.

So, if you really want to do something well, focus on the task at hand and try not to let your mind wander.  I know that when I am racing and in the middle of the swim and I start thinking of the upcoming bike course my swim stroke mechanics deteriorate and I slow way down.  Change your mind set; focusing on one thing at a time is actually more efficient, give it a try.

Your brain is also part of your central nervous system which includes the spinal cord and all your spinal nerves- so remember to take care of your whole central nervous system with regular chiropractic adjustments.

If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com