Most everyone agrees that focus is a major key to success. The ability to block out distractions and hone in on the task required for success is often what separates the most successful people from the merely successful people.
Multitasking is nearly the exact opposite of focus.
As technology allows people to do more tasks at the same time, the myth that we can multitask has never been stronger. But researchers say it’s still a myth and they have the data to prove it.
“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.” Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.
What we can do, he said, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.
“Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said. “You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”
In reality, multitasking slows your thinking. A brain attempting to perform two tasks simultaneously will, because of all the back-and-forth stress, exhibit a substantial lag in information processing. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.
The research just goes on and on regarding how multitasking is ineffective. There is no research that shows multitasking to be effective.
Now I know that a substantial number of people reading this will disagree. They will say THEY are excellent at multitasking and that they are accomplishing more than they ever could without it. Please reread professor Miller’s comments again… you’re deluding yourself.
Some people are indeed better at multitasking than others but no one is truly “good” at multitasking.
The truth is, and always has been, that focus, singular focus, is a key to success. Multi-tasking is a key to failure.
Just another reason why the difference between success and failure is often in the choices we make.