The Dangers of Multitasking and Why you Should Avoid It

Productivity

Earlier this month, I came across a job opening by a reputable tech company in Ghana.

They were hiring new software developers.  Among the list of requirements an ideal candidate should have was the “ability to multitask efficiently”.

This case is not an exception. Rather, it is the norm. Almost every company requires prospective job applicants to possess the magical skill of multitasking.

Because every job opportunity is listing “multitasking” as one of the required skills, employees are also adding it to their CVs. Take 10 CVs and I can bet you at least 5 of them have a variation of: “I am capable of multitasking efficiently”.

If you think you are great at multitasking, think again. You are not as efficient as you think.  At worst, you’re just great at being distracted.

If you think you are great at multitasking, think again. You are not as efficient as you think. At worst, you're just great at being distracted. Click To TweetHere is why multitasking is dangerous and why you should avoid it. 

1. The human brain is not designed to multitask efficiently

Research has proven that human brain is just not designed to do more than one task efficiently at the same time, especially if the two tasks are not related.

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.

While you think you are multitasking, all you are doing is switching between different tasks. While switching between these different tasks, it takes your brain some time to adjust to the new task.

2. Multitasking makes you less efficient and slows you down

Stanford University researchers found that people who try to multitask are less productive than doing a single thing at a time.  To demonstrate this, try this experiment on mindfulness by Psychology Today delivered by Potential Project, a group based in Denmark.

  1. Draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper
  2. Now, have someone time you as you carry out the following two tasks.
  3. On the first line, write the sentence:
    I am a great multitasker.
  4. On the second line: write out the numbers 1-20 sequentially, like this:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Calculate how much time it took you to do both tasks.

Now let’s try to do the same thing by multitasking.

  1. Draw two more horizontal lines.
  2. Have someone time you once again as you try to carry out the following two tasks
  3. Write a letter on the top line, then a number on the bottom line, then the next letter on the top line and the next number on the bottom line trying to write out both the letters and the numbers at the same time, like  this
    I am …..
    1 2 3 …..
  4. Continue until you complete everything.

Now calculate how much time it took you to do both tasks.

I can bet you it took more time while trying to multitask because your brain had to keep switching between different tasks. You probably even made a few mistakes.

 

3. Multitasking can lower your IQ and damage your brain

Another study by the University of London also revealed that multitasking actually lowers your IQ.  For cognitive tasks, participants who multitasked experienced a decline in IQ scores, sometimes as low as the average IQ for an 8-year-old child.

Multitasking also causes temporal cognitive impairment to your brain. Researchers at the University of Sussex are researching on possible physical damage multitasking could have on your brain.

Even though that has not been determined yet, the dangers of multitasking are clear. Multitasking has a lot of negative effects which will surely make you less efficient, less productive and actually harm you.

So next time you’re trying to read your notes, text a friend and watch a movie at the same time, realize that your cognitive capacities are being diminished.

No matter what you think, multitasking is bad and will do you more harm than good. Avoid it like the plague and try to stick to one thing at a time.

Hello,

My name is Isaac Sesi. I am an award-winning entrepreneur, front-end developer and embedded systems engineer. I started my first company, Invent Electronics in my second year in college and have co-founded 3 other companies since.
Read more about me 

Hello,

My name is Isaac Sesi. I started my first company, Invent Electronics in my second year in university and I’ve co-founded 3 startups since.

Along the line, I have learnt a great deal and I want to share everything I know with you to help you build your dream business too. Read more 

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