Ever find yourself squinting at your computer, trying to discern which open tab is actually the one you want to be clicking on? We have, and aside from giving us the mother of all headaches, tab hopping is usually a sign that we’re attempting — unsuccessfully — to multitask.
Here’s the thing: It’s virtually impossible not to multitask. Technology has quite literally allowed us to be able to write a blog post, check the weekend’s weather, scroll through our Twitter account and plan tonight’s dinner all in one screen.
Yet we’d be kidding ourselves if we actually thought all of those things are happening at once. Let’s be real: NONE of those things end up happening. The blog post ends up as a draft, dinner is take out, and we can’t for the life of us recall what the weather is supposed to be on Saturday.
Research and science backs this up. For example, when hopping from website to website, jumping from task to task, do you ever find yourself spacing out, then wondering, What the hell was I supposed to do? This 2011 study found that a multitasking brain, particularly as we age, can affect our short-term memory; you’re literally hindering your brain’s ability to store information, fragmenting its attention and dulling its sharpness. Moreover, this American Psychological Association article implicates multitasking as the enemy of productivity:
Although switch costs may be relatively small, sometimes just a few tenths of a second per switch, they can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. Thus, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error. Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.
When you think of 40% of your day’s productivity lost in the name of multitasking, the case for doing one thing at a time — and taking the time to finish everything you start — is increasingly compelling.
So, this week, we’re suggesting a seemingly simple yet REALLY difficult reduction in your life: Scale back the number of tabs you have open. Try giving yourself a cap (2-3), and make a concentrated effort not to toggle unless absolutely necessary. Because, really, is the dancing dog video REALLY pertinent to your work assignment?
We didn’t think so. Let us know how it goes!