Multitasking vs Mindfulness
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time. This steady and undissipated attention to one object is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”
Although Lord Chesterton wrote these words to his son more than 270 years ago, they are still significantly relevant to today’s digital world. At that time and today the doing of one complex thing at a time, is a mark of true intelligence.
Two types of multitasking
According to Hart and Hart Frejd (2013:74), it is important to distinguish between different forms of multitasking. It is possible to perform simple tasks where you don’t need to remember anything such as driving a car while listening to music. But it is quite different when you drive a car and simultaneously talk to your employer on a cell phone or need to follow instructions to a new place while talking to your friend next to you. This is why there’s a law that forbids driving a car while talking on your cell phone (without a handheld device).
Several research studies and neuroscientific facts have found that multitasking is significantly less productive than by doing tasks in a sequential manner. I In 2005, a study done at the University of London found that workers distracted by emails or phone calls suffered from a fall in their IQ level of 10 points (working memory), that is twice as much as in marijuana smokers. This is the same result as when you haven’t slept for a full night.
Multitasking a threat to workplace productivity
It was also predicted in 2005, that “infomania” and job multitasking with many interruptions and distractions would become a major threat to workplace productivity. Today this is a reality and together with an increase in anxiety, stress, and depression, these are the biggest challenges companies are facing.
Multitasking also affects children’s development
Multitasking, “infomania” and associated phenomena such as FOMO, FOLO, and FONK are also becoming a threat to optimised time being spent on learning and development of children in schools. It is important to realise that most researchers now agree that the idea that multitasking facilitates better learning, is one of the greatest myths surrounding the digital-immersed world of today.
The truth about multitasking
- It is true that even when both tasks are simple, multitasking impairs performance.
- There is also a significant amount of time being lost when switching attention between tasks.
- People are also making more mistakes when trying to do more than one task at a time.
- People remember less of what they learn when their attention is divided between tasks.
Unfortunately, people who are in the habit of multitasking don’t realise and acknowledge the realities around this fallacy. They still believe that they are more effective than what they really are. They are actually wasting a significant amount of time, which they could have spent on more meaningful activities.
Mindfulness as opposed to multitasking
Mindfulness is the opposite of multitasking. It means that you focus on being present and giving your full attention when fulfilling a task or engaging in a real-life conversation. This ensures that your mind stays focused on the here and now and the real world with all its dimensions and without judgement.
It’s easy to become distracted, interrupted, and addicted to all the apps, gadgets and widgets of technology and social media. By being more mindful daily, you will live more joyfully and fulfilled.
It;s true that we now have so many more wonderful opportunities to be lured into, but unfortunately we will have to become pro-active to limit our screen and virtual connectivity time.
These techno-life smart boundaries will ensure that we have enough time with our loved ones in our direct environment, nature, and spiritual selves. It will also then leave enough time to master techno-life balance together with all the other wellness elements in our lives @home, @school and @work.