Multi-tasking is considered a staple ability for all competent employees. Between balancing emails, attending meetings, covering your less committed co-workers and actually having a life – juggling tasks is required to make it day-to-day in most jobs.
However, science has once again strolled along and debunked everything we thought as true. It turns out that we, as humans, are not programmed to focus on more than one thing at a time.
One study at the University of London showed that subjects who “multitasked while performing brain-intensive tasks demonstrated IQ drops similar to people who are sleep-deprived or smoke marijuana”. It’s that detrimental to your efficiency if you can believe that. The more hardcore science explanation is that multi-tasking is linked to an increase in cortisol which is the hormone that’s triggered in stressful or dangerous situations that your body needs to cope with.
That said, our bodies actually receive dopamine kickbacks every-time we manage to multi-task because we convince ourselves that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. The good feeling anticipation that comes with doing too many things at once can actually lower your operating IQ by as much as 10 points.
But this is harmless, right? If only it was. Another study from University of Sussex suggests a link between a decrease in brain density in the region that controls emotional control and multi-tasking. It’s not proven fact, but definitely something worth considering.
Multi-tasking can be combated with greater organisation and strengthened willpower. Check your emails on a regular schedule and turn on notifications on your phone. Shut off the distractions and deal with tasks as they come, it might save your brain.