I was beginning to think I have mild ADD. There once was a time when I possessed comparably insurmountable concentration to a single task at hand, normally drawing or practicing piano or reading, or even studying for that matter. How quickly things can change…
Understandably, having attained a husband, a household, and four children, I now can be found to embody a mere fraction of the devotedly focused individual I was even just six years ago. My first thought upon realizing this stark and, at first, alarming difference in myself was that I have become less focused and my attention is now split a thousand ways. I am incredibly distractable. And I seemingly cannot do anything for more than fifteen minutes put together (unless it’s reading or writing or talking. HA.) Maybe I need to work on my multitasking skills.
And yet, the more I try to improve said multitasking skills, the less I actually improve at accomplishing things. From what I’ve been reading and hearing (namely, this article by Larry Kim at Inc.com, great stuff), multitasking is actually not the way to go, as I have previously been led to believe. From what he is saying, the practice of multitasking is doing the very opposite we believe that it is. Efficiency, getting things done faster, getting more things accomplished…
Here are some excellent nuggets excavated from this article.
In fact, what we call multitasking is really switching from task to task at ludicrous speed. Doing so harms our brains by perpetuating “bad brain habits.” We switch from minor task to minor task at such a great pace (example: checking email to texting to looking up to answer a question back to texting, all while watching TV,) to which our brains respond by “hitting us with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone.” We love that comfy feeling instant gratification brings, which comes from – you got it – dopamine. And as a result from this behavior, we train our brains to think we are accomplishing much, when truly we aren’t.
Mr. Kim cites a recent study suggesting “subjects who multitasked while performing cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ drops. In fact, the IQ drops were similar to what you see in individuals who skip a night of sleep or who smoke marijuana.”
This statistic is nothing short of horrifying in my mind…
And as if that weren’t enough, multitasking has also been shown “to increase production of cortisol – the stress hormone.” Of course. On top of that, the real kicker:
“A study from the University of Sussex (UK) ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”
And I am scarily finding this very result in myself the more I pursue the habit of multitasking. Shortness with people, quickness of temper, all around touchiness, impatience for anyone who doesn’t understand me right away…
So, new plan. I’m done trying to become an adept multitasker!
Now that I’m aware of how I’ve been mistakenly trying to accomplish Life, I’m attempting to really do one thing at a time. Eat lunch without doing something else too. Plan more time to get certain tasks done for the sake of doing them individually, and well. Be. Think. Train even my thoughts to sink into one concept at a time. So much better to do a single task as well as I possibly can, to think a thought as deeply and completely as time allows, to contemplate as fruitfully as possible, than to do ten or even fifteen tasks all at the same time but accomplished to a fraction of their value.
This is going to take a lifetime of practice. Isn’t it just the hardest thing to sit still? Stay? Be? Interact? It takes enormous strength for me to not retreat into my personal self-ish world as soon as I have the opportunity. To be present, to force myself to engage? That is where the true courage lies.
But we love to feel busy. It makes us feel like we’re getting a lot done. The fact must be faced that when we fill up the day with too many things, the result is that we come to the end with too many tasks to accomplish in the leftover time allotted to us, we feel pressed for time, and the reaction is to do everything faster by multitasking to get all those things checked off the list. And most of the time getting things done faster means merely that. Not better, just faster. Busyness certainly does not mean progress.
The conclusion I come to is that I must retrain myself in what I perceive true accomplishment means and looks like.
I want to utilize my time as efficiently as possible though, not as quickly as possible, which means I must retrain this habit I’ve ended up unintentionally cultivating within myself.
Because I know I won’t get to the end of my life wishing I had gotten more things done. I’ll wish I had spent my time better – deepening relationships, giving, serving, loving, learning.
In that way, I will have saved my own valuable time. Not by what I accomplish but by how I enrich my own soul and the precious ones around me.
May God bless you always, and especially today.