To answer the question on whether humans can actually multitask, let’s start by asking what multitasking means. Dictionary.com defines the word ‘multitask’ as, “(of one person) to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”
You’re probably thinking, “What’s strange about that?” Well, first off, simultaneously means ‘at the same time.’ And not one after another.
So, by the above definition of multitasking, many of us haven’t really multitasked every time we thought we did!
What about breathing and sleeping at the same time? Or breathing, sleeping and dreaming? Doesn’t that count? If so, then the human body multitasks by… just existing, right? However, basic body functions happening simultaneously are not classified as multitasking. The reason being, our bodies do these things instinctually, meaning they don’t engage our brains like ‘thinking’ does.
There aren’t many people in this world who can technically multitask between two or more distinct activities. Even if we could, one of the tasks would most likely be a habit our brain could execute automatically.
For instance, if you had to write a letter now, you’d be able to think and pen words down at the same time. That would be cognitive multitasking. That does not require you to actively hold varied information in your working memory, all at once.
So, what we really do is, we switch between tasks fast. This is the multitasking we all know. And for the rest of the blog, I’ll be referring to the practical multitasking that many of us dream of mastering.
Can multitasking harm productivity?
Humans can constantly switch between crucial activities at work. But you shouldn’t, if you want to be efficient.
Your mind is like a gearbox. And, every task needs to be executed at a pace with a process that’s unique to itself. Just like how you shift gears according to the speed required on a given road, you get your brain to shift processing information as you multitask.
However, cars automate all other changes that need to be implemented alongside multiple gear-shifts. But your brain is you. So, every time you make a mental gear shift, you have to work on changing your thoughts, goals, procedures, steps, rules, and more. Eventually, you burn a lot of energy and still end up being less productive.
The science behind the effects of multitasking
Research by the University of London revealed that those who multitasked while performing cognitive tasks showed an IQ decline. In fact, a number of men were observed to have an IQ equaling the average IQ of a third grader.
Researchers from the UK University of Sussex found that high multitaskers suffered cognitive impairment. The MRIs of their brains showed lowered brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for decision-making, emotion and impulse control, cognitive functions, and the ability to empathize.
More mistakes and accidents
Brain fitness matters when it comes to handling any task. Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore state that multitasking causes you to leave out crucial information and make mistakes. Your brain also wears out and loses agility in life sooner than usual.
Poor memory and learning ability
Your brain gathers information when you observe or experience something. But learning is complete only when you’re able to recall the information to your mind. And learning can happen anytime.
Even as people work, they learn something new each day. But multitasking slows down your learning progress by overloading your brain with information. You might feel like it isn’t that big of a deal to remember things. But there will always be some runaway information that your brain fails to capture because of how quickly it must focus on a new task.
It’s highly likely that you’ve felt stressed out with having a lot to do in a short period of time. If multitasking didn’t cause your brain direct stress, it could affect other factors getting you worked up somehow. For instance, you may miss a crucial detail in an email to someone important and not know it. Or you might never get to finish something you’ve started because you kept losing time on doing other things.
Stress is also inevitable when you exert yourself mentally and physically trying to achieve many things at a time. Multitasking is known to give people depression and anxiety. These in turn trigger health risks including heart disease, ulcers, headaches and body pain.
AnswerConnect can help you stay focused
Business owners often handle phone calls themselves while also balancing other important tasks at hand.
There are businesses that may have a live receptionist or a team that covers the front desk for them. But when things get heavy, the receptionists or secretaries have to juggle visitors, callers and other office priorities.
Then there are businesses that delegate call handling to other employees. The employees pause their work each time someone calls. The results of multitasking becomes worse if your role needs you to be creative, innovative or transformative.
Core front desk tasks are part of business-life. But there will be moments when you and your employees face burnout.
AnswerConnect has dedicated agents whose sole focus is engaging your callers, whenever they call. Remove the burden of multitasking and pay valuable attention to other crucial tasks. See how a 24/7 live answering service can help you, today.
You breathe easier and sleep better when you know there’s a professional responding to all your customers, leads, and prospects round the clock. Click the button below to learn more about how a virtual phone answering service can help you. Call us at 800-700-8888 today.
- Dictionary.com defines the word ‘multitask’ as, “(of one person) to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”
- By the above definition of multitasking, many of us haven’t really multitasked every time we thought we did!
- When you switch between tasks fast, it could cause damage to your brain overtime.
- Business owners often handle phone calls themselves while also balancing other important tasks at hand.
- AnswerConnect – a live 24/7 answering service – can eliminate the burden of multitasking and help you pay valuable attention to other crucial tasks.