Is Multitasking Dangerous to Your Health?
By Roger Landry M.D.
If you look at the latest job listings, I guarantee that a large percentage of them will read, “Must be able to multitask and work under pressure in a deadline-driven, fast paced environment…” These descriptions should say, “…where creativity and your health and well-being are not important. True humans need not apply.”
Technology and societal values delude us into believing we are indeed effectively driving, drinking our coffee, talking on the phone, thinking of the upcoming meeting, and railing against the jerk who just cut in front of us. Multitasking in most cases is code for chattering mind, the plague of our modern society. Multitasking is so pervasive that a recent study from the University of Virginia found that most people would rather experience mild electric shock than be left alone, without tasks, for fifteen minutes.
The Maladaptation of Multitasking
For most of the time man has been on earth, time had little meaning. There was sunrise and sunset and the seasons. Our physiology is still that of these ancestors, not yet adapted to our new fast-paced world, where time seems to dominate.
Research has consistently shown that multitasking actually blunts productivity and creativity. Our brains do not in fact process several things at once, but instead jump from one topic to the next, resulting in mistakes – up to 40% more mistakes than if we were to work on tasks one at a time. And creativity? The great masters of thought, like Einstein, tell us that the great breakthroughs came when their minds were quiet. Probably even more important is that our relationships suffer from our chronic distractions and perceived need to do more and more.
The end result of this obsession with productivity and chattering mind, which thwarts creativity and hurts human interaction? A pervasive and toxic chronic stress, which raises risks for heart disease, dementia, depression and even cancer. Our sense of accomplishment is enhanced at the expense of our well-being … even our very humanity.
Wherever You Are … Be There
Technology has provided us with fantastic capabilities. One of them is multiple ways of “communicating.” However, always being “plugged in” is not necessarily being socially connected or even more productive; it’s being technologically constrained. We can easily become prisoners of our phones, texts, or emails and the multitasking they foster.
So, how can we be productive without giving up our creativity, health or humanity? A start is to be “in the moment” no matter what you’re doing. Here are five suggestions.
Five Tips Towards Humanistic Productivity