The multitasking addiction

I’m an expert multitasker. It’s something I pride myself on. And with a schedule as busy as mine, it’s helpful to be able to juggle multiple things at once. God knows I need all the efficiency I can get, and it seems obvious that multitasking would help me be more efficient.

And so multitasking has become a way of life. I call friends while walking to class. I watch the news while putting on makeup and eating breakfast. I do calf raises while brushing my teeth. I read while on the treadmill. I make to-do lists during meetings. I check e-mail during class. I type while looking at and listening to someone else (I really can type perfectly without looking). I’m never thinking about just one thing.

I’ve always thought this a good thing – look how much more I’m getting done! And both (or all three, or five) things are done well, I promise. Plus, my brain never stops working, so even when I try, it’s hard for me to settle on just one task. That includes the task of relaxing and reading a magazine before bed (Yes, even then I’m thinking about and working through other things). Given a brain going in ten directions at once, multitasking was the obvious answer.

Until a friend started giving me a hard time about it, saying I didn’t know how to focus on one thing at a time. In a teasing way, she asked me if I know how to stop and relax or if I could devote myself fully to one thing. She also said multitasking is not so beneficial because it actually diminishes overall productivity. I might think I get more done doing two things at once, but those two actually take longer and aren’t done as well.

That got me to thinking. Am I helping or hurting myself? Do I not know how to focus? I decided to do a little test. This week, I noted when I divided my attention and how it worked out for me, and I have to say I wasn’t so pleased with my multitasking ways. When did I fall behind in lecture? When I started working on another assignment. And when I devoted my full attention to class? I absorbed the material right away. At home, when I stopped thinking about all the things I needed to do and focused on just the task of the moment, I got through it faster and it seemed easier.

I can’t say I got through my to-do list more efficiently because I only got to cross off one thing at a time, but I definitely absorbed things better. And that’s what’s important in the long run.

I’ve realized much of my stress the past two weeks came from having so many worries and responsibilities flying around my head, and that made it hard to focus on one thing. But while this makes me want to multitask, I need to do the opposite. I need to let everything settle, which means slowing down and turning down my buzzing brain. Multitasking might get more stuff done, but it doesn’t let my brain process as well.

So here’s my new resolution: limit the multitasking and tackle one thing, with full attention, one step at a time. I might not finish faster, but I’ll have a firmer grasp on what I’ve read or written or learned, and that will pay off.

At least when they’re important things. Let’s be honest, my watch news/do calf raises/put on makeup/eat breakfast routine is a winning combination. And I’ll probably never check e-mail with undivided attention.

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  1. I’m so proud of you for figuring this out! 🙂

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