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Is Multitasking Bad? What happened when I turned off the TV!

Is Multitasking Bad? The ability to do more than one thing at once is often something that we prize in our society that is focussed on productivity, always being available and responsive and that expects things to happen straight away. How many of us settle down to watch a TV programme with our phones in front of us, watching and scrolling at the same time, get to the end of the programme and have no idea what it was about. We might think that multitasking is a good thing that makes us more productive, but studies show that multitasking isn’t good for us.

“Studies show that when our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention- we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.”

We all know that texting or calling when driving can be dangerous and have potentially fatal results, but what about if you are ironing with the TV on or walking and listening to music, or sometimes within a therapy setting you might find it easier to speak if you are doing something creative at the same time such as drawing. It would seem that, if the tasks we are doing are simple or routine, or perhaps embodied such as walking and talking (we don’t need to consciously think about how to do them) we are able to do two things at once and the impact isn’t so great or noticeable, but if the stakes are higher then the consequences are greater.

Is Multitasking Bad

Many people though feel that they are more productive when they are multitasking and I know that feeling of rushing about doing lots of things and getting to the end of the day feeling like I’ve done loads, but studies show that we are just getting an emotional boost from multitasking.  Zheng Wang, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University says that people who multitask “… seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive — they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.” 

Some of the negative effects of multitasking on our mental health can include, stress, distractedness, memory problems, less productivity, working longer, depression and anxiety and burnout. Psychology Today has an interesting article on the negative impacts that you can read here. 10 Real Risks of Multitasking on Mind and Body

Stress Awareness Month

This subject is very pertinent to me. I am often to be found watching TV and scrolling on my phone, walking and listening to an audio book, talking on the phone and doing work on my computer, or writing blog posts and listening to a TV programme or podcast! In fact, it got to such a point that it would take me ages to write a blog post, I was constantly distracted by what I was listening to, I couldn’t focus, I kept making spelling and grammatical errors, it was difficult to reread it properly. It took me at least double the time it should have done. I was listening to the TV programme at the same time because it felt comforting, it made me feel that I wasn’t really working and for some reason that felt ‘nicer’. When I turned off the TV I wrote better blog posts, I wrote them more quickly and I was more satisfied with what I produced. I also felt less stressed about the whole processes because it was much quicker and easier.

Having said this I do sometimes still work on my computer and have the TV on in the background, this is often though when I am doing tasks that are routine and don’t require much thought to them. It would seem for me then, that the key to deciding when you multitask is considering whether the task we are doing is high stakes or complex. So, watching TV and folding your laundry is low stakes and simple, driving car and texting is high stakes and complex. Writing a blog post and watching TV may not be life or death but if I multitask in this way with all my work it will have, and did have, a negative impact on my mental and emotional health. When I turned off the TV and focussed on one task at a time and gave it my full attention, I was more productive and felt less stressed and anxious.

Another Blog on our website that you might find useful is Three Tips for Managing Your Workload

If you are struggling with any of the issues in this article you might want to talk to a professional. Paul offers each client the opportunity to speak with him first in an initial phone call to ensure that he is the right person for you to work with on the difficulties you are experiencing and to answer any questions that you have. Paul is currently only offering support online or on the telephone. Please call him on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave me a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.




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