The Itch to Switch

paellaYES! this really is my paella

It’s almost cultural ADHD. Why do we insist on constantly switching tasks when we know that the jury is firmly in on the facts that;

a) none of us are good at multitasking
b) none actually includes women
c) so far our brains haven’t adapted to rapidly switch between social media, TED talks, emails and whatever it is we are supposed to be doing (right now reading my blog).

Actually, I will put a small caveat on that, you can do two things at once if they are relatively simple and don’t involve excessive frontal lobe activity. So walking and talking for most of us or cooking and talking for many – except for me as I recently discovered when making paella…

Paella and me
It was my virgin attempt, with friends coming to sample. For those of you who’ve never tried, it’s tricky, with many ingredients and a whole lotta chopping….

So when my friend arrived early and embarked on an intense conversation – I wasn’t happy! As she ploughed on from her bench side stool, I got more and more lost in the saffron and rice, the chili and prawns…. the peas and her.

Dissatisfied with my “yeahs” and the faraway look in my eyes, she shot me a look of disdain and said “you’re really bad at multitasking aren’t you?”

What do the experts say?
Multitasking creates conflict in our brain, which has to choose which task to focus on – since it can’t solve two problems at once. We have a limited amount of brain bandwidth and processing channels, so multitasking is essentially competition for these resources. It slows us down, we make more mistakes and we feel more stressed – weren’t signing up for that were we?

Overtime multitasking;

  • Hampers creativity and can rewire the brain, killing the overview function (not great for strategic thinking)
  • Reduces well being and drains energy
  • Embeds a default mode of distractibility
  • Creates problems with managing working memory

If you’re not convinced watch this!
TED talk with Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass

So next time you get the itch to switch. DON’T!

  • Focus on one task for 20 minutes – no I’m not kidding. Monotasking is not a new concept, just a revamped one (Find out more here)
  • You will need to sit with your inner FOMO (fear of missing out) but it’s worth it
  • If you find it hard to focus intently on one thing, then practice your ability to stay present. You will be amazed at what you are generally oblivious to. Russ Harris has some good techniques (Find out more here)
  • Become an urge surfer. Notice your urge to switch and think of it like a wave that comes and goes.
  • Where you would normally react impulsively, take some control. Answer your emails every few hours – rather than with every ping.

If you are still struggling, stop and ponder the fact that you are training your brain to become more focused…… and this lasts a lifetime.

Not every itch needs to be scratched

3 comments

  1. Michael Wos · · Reply

    Not convinced. I remember a teacher in primary school declaring, ‘You can’t do two things at once!’ And my argument was, ‘That’s not true! You can walk and breathe at the same time!’ Just kidding. Good blog, Georgina. Thanks for sharing. Oh and you wouldn’t want to mix up the letters in FOMO; means something completely different in modern slang.

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    1. Now you’ve really got me intrigued Michael! Next time I’m at YVW i want to know all

      Like

  2. Fantastic, so when your dinner tomorrow night turns out to be extremely average due to me attempting to simultaneously manage the constant demands of two little people, cook for 6 + 2, and be an attentive and enquiring host, you won’t judge me. There’ s always baked beans on toast, I guess. Excellent with a good red.

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