Resilience Hack: Stop Multitasking

We think we are good multitaskers. We are not. In fact, neuroscience shows that we really don’t multitask, we simply switch back and forth between tasks, with each switch burning brain glucose, losing attention, and increasing cortisol levels. It also sucks time: shifting from one task to read an e-mail, for instance, requires fifteen minutes to get back into the first task, lowers productivity by up to 40 percent, doubles your rate of error, and diminishes memory. Bottom line is that you don’t have time to multitask.

Not only that, if you’re trying to multitask while engaging with someone else, it shows. Your kids don’t know that you’re looking at your phone because you’re ordering items for them or because your impossible boss is demanding a response. They just presume that they’re not worth your attention at that moment—not what you intend.

[N]euroscience shows that we really don’t multitask, we simply switch back and forth between tasks, with each switch burning brain glucose, losing attention, and increasing cortisol levels.
  • Single-tasking. Instead of trying to play with your kids and order sippy cups from Amazon, and send that work reply e-mail, play with your kids, then order from Amazon, then reply. It may sound like it takes more time, but the increased efficiency of single-task focus will more than make up for it. Plus, you’ll avoid ordering twelve bottles of your husband’s shampoo because you were distracted (because I did that).

  • Compartmentalize. Research shows that the most resilient people are able to compartmentalize well (hmmm . . . men may be onto something). Practice the mindfulness exercises to help close out distractions and compartmentalize.

  • Block time on your calendar. If you have specific projects that have to be done, block out time to work on them. When I was writing this book, it led to a never-ending to-do list. So, instead of just trying to squeeze it in when I had a moment, I took the to-dos and blocked them out on the calendar, to make sure I’d have the time. Then make sure to single-task during each block.

  • Turn off devices and e-mail when you’re working on a project. Bill Gates goes on thinking retreats—just to think! Some executives only check e-mail during specific intervals. Studying the habits of these uber-successful individuals shows that they are not “always connected”—in fact, they intentionally disconnect.

Want more hacks? Check out bestselling new release Mom Hacks, today! Also, follow Dr. Darria on Instagram or Facebook for more great tips.

Darria Long Gillespie, MD MBA
Dr. Darria Long is a Yale- and Harvard-trained emergency physician, author of bestselling book Mom Hacks (Hachette), and a TV host and expert on HLN, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, and other networks. A mom of two herself, Dr. Darria has become the national "make-life-better-for-women doctor”. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School and residency training from Yale School of Medicine.

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