Scientists may have proven that women are better at multitasking than men, (something to do with hormones!) but that doesn’t mean our minds and bodies are cut out for it, or that we should be doing it. No matter what society (and even science!) tells us, the brain isn’t built for multitasking. In fact, it can mainly only do one thing successfully at any one time and adding tasks isn’t always the way to get more done in less time. Multitasking doesn’t expand the brain’s capacity; it only increases its “cognitive load”, otherwise known as the amount of mental effort your brain must put out to achieve something.
Do Less Multitasking
By multitasking you are actually reducing the attention you give to each thing you’re doing, increasing the chance of making more mistakes and pushing your brain beyond what is should have to cope with. So, even though science may have proven that women can multitask better than men, it has also been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks no matter who you are! When all is said and done, you lose time by trying to do too much at once because it takes your brain four times longer to recognise new things and you also lose time because of the (almost inevitable) mistakes you make in each task. But there’s a catch…
Do More Combining
There are actually a couple of things you can combine as part of a successful routine that make you feel like you’re getting more done. Additionally, we don’t always give ourselves enough credit for what we achieve when we do one task successfully. A perfect example is making calls or paying bills. Yes, it feels like just one task and it’s tempting to pick up a duster while you’re on the phone, but you could find you make mistakes in one or the other area that you’re focusing on, or don’t do either task as well. Instead, consider thinking about what you actually achieve while you pay that bill or make that call. Not only are you actively completing the task at hand but you’re also reducing stress and ticking something off your to-do list, lightening the load on your brain. Give yourself more credit for what you actually do and, if you must multitask when calling the bank, how about enjoying a cuppa instead?
Here’s a couple of things you can do that are technically considered multitasking, but don’t risk any major mistakes, overload or brain fatigue…
Never leave a room empty handed. This simple habit will massively impact your ability to stay organised and clutter free. You will naturally spend lots of time moving around you home. A toy left in the living room? Pop it on the stairs or where it actually belongs as you’re flicking on the kettle. Popping to the loo? Take up the pile of laundry that’s waiting for you instead of making a special trip.
You know I’m all about self development tools; constantly learning, growing, improving our minds is to key to being a better, more rounded person. It’s amazing what you can pick up from the self-help world, and it doesn’t have to be spiritual or flouncy if that’s not your thing. But finding the time to read can be tough in a busy schedule, instead, invest in Audible and listen to audiobooks while you clean, tidy round or exercise. Try podcasts and webinars whilst folding laundry or tackling the ironing.
On a safety note: I wouldn’t recommend listening to anything other than music when you’re shopping or driving. Simply because you’re not concentrating on the audio sufficiently to absorb it and it’s not worth risking making mistakes behind the wheel. The road needs your full attention. And, do you really want to have to drive back to the store because you forgot the milk? Audio needs to be paired with a mindless task that takes little to no concentration in order to reap the full benefits of both tasks. If you must listen to something other than music when driving, try re-listening to audios so it’s not new information that’s coming in, taking away from your ability to make sensible road decisions. I personally listen to a section or book I’ve already heard. This reaffirms the information in your mind and lets your prefrontal cortex focus on driving while your subconscious absorbs anything you may have missed when listening to the audio the first time around.
Kids, Habits and Time
Spending time with children can sometimes be difficult. I know from personal experience that “play” doesn’t always come naturally to some adults and that’s ok. But it can leave us non-players struggling to find something to do to entertain the kids when you’re in the house. Some things we do together though can go into the multitasking category because they achieve many things in one action.
- Cook with your children – preparing a meal, entertaining them and teaching them important life and safety skills
- Exercise together – if you like Yoga, I can highly recommend Cosmic Kids on YouTube. Their classes tell a story whilst teaching basic yoga poses that you can do alongside your child. This teaches them important life skills and self development whilst spending time together and benefiting from exercising! Winner!
- Self Care – teach your children to look after themselves and prioritise their wellbeing. Again, you’re actively spending time with your little one without “playing”, whilst demonstrating the benefits of self care and teaching important life skills.
In summary, there are a few things you can do that feel like multitasking, without the risk of making epic mistakes, overloading your brain or prolonging what could be a shorter task. So now it’s over to you. What multitasking fails have you made? What bad multitasking habits do you plan on shutting down once and for all?