Multi tasking is one of those skills that people brag about having. But is it effective?

The Research

Research conducted at Stanford University found that multi tasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

Multi tasking can have negative effects on the brain. Researchers at the University of Sussex in England compared brain scans of the time people spent multi tasking with multiple devices such as texting while watching TV. The results showed that high multi taskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control. Although more research needs to be conducted on the long-term damage we know for a fact that Multi tasking has an effect on the brain

The research done at Stamford has shown that when you think you are multi tasking, you’re actually not. We may have this notion that our brain is working hard at every task that you are trying to accomplish when you are Multi tasking, but you’re actually dividing up your brain power and reducing the focus on any one thing which ends up making you less effective when Multi tasking. In the brain, when you start another task while you are already working on one you are diverting your attention that is currently on one side of the brain to the other. In addition to taking away time from your activity, you are also taking up valuable resources and diverting them away from one task to another. It acts as a distraction and reducing individual concentration. The result of Multi-taking is your brain is slower to access your brain power.

There Are Many Negatives To Multi Tasking


Checking email in the middle of a task is an example of multi tasking. It is a self-inflicted distraction that comes from the impulse, rather the addiction to check email while we are in the middle of another task. Studies show that more than 30% of people check their phones 150 times a day. You can’t argue that is necessary. It is an impulsive addiction. Because we are so easily distracted by both outside and inside forces, Multi tasking has risen as a larger problem in the workplace as well as at home.

This is a topic that has definitely drawn a lot of attention when it comes to researching distracted driving. When you are on the phone talking or texting while driving, you are no longer focusing solely on driving rather you have diverted your attention from the road to your phone. That is why accidents happen. As a matter of fact, 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. That is bad.


There are some other negatives and negative effects to Multi tasking. You are going to be more likely to make mistakes when Multi tasking than you would if you were just working on one thing at a time. Since you are not solely focused on one thing, your attention is divided, your reaction time is slower and you are going to be more likely to make mistakes. If you are doing two basic tasks at once, this may not be a problem but if both tasks require a lot of critical thinking you are going to make errors.


Lastly, Multi tasking may stress you out. You may think that by Multi tasking you are getting your job done quicker or getting more done but it is actually hampering you from getting more done and not having to repeat your work due to errors, omissions or delays in the long run. The mistakes made from Multi tasking causes stress.

Having to keep multiple balls in the air at the same time creates a compulsive behavior to do more. It is because dopamine is being released in your brain when you complete something. When you think you are completing something, you get another hit of dopamine, making you want to take more on, only to suffer later from the mistakes and extra work it creates. Our brain is actually tricking us to think it is good for us. You need to have the discipline and foresight to set up rules for yourself to notice and avoid this compulsive, multi-taking behaviors.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid Multi Tasking

Use a timer:

By using a timer you are dedicating that segment of time to only one task and when the timer goes off you can move to another. The timer helps you stay concentrated and adds a little competitive pressure to get it done in the time allotted.

Schedule your priorities:

Make sure you schedule important tasks in your calendar. As this will show up as an appointment you can deliver dedicated time to this task and leave the multi tasking to other less important tasks. If you don’t schedule them, they won’t happen because other urgencies will show up to fill the time you have.

Work in Airplane mode

By putting your phone in airplane mode you are free to work without distraction form texts or incoming emails or any other notifications coming from your social apps. Block out distractions and gain greater focus. You know this, so why aren’t you doing it. Leave t in the other room, make someone hold it for you-just do it!

Listen to music

Listening to certain types of music can help increase your focus. Allow a part of your mind that gets distracted be occupied with listening to music and enjoy the focus it creates.

Increase awareness

Tracking your distractions and patterns and impulses to multi-task will help you to identify ways to stop it. You cant change what you are not aware of.

So now what is your answer- is it effective to multi-task? Next time, instead of multi tasking do your tasks individually. This will increase your productivity and minimize your errors, making your life a lot easier and happier.