All working professionals, winning awards for versatility, beware! All that multi-tasking might be doing you more harm than good.
In today’s world of spiraling competition, lay-offs and mergers, serious side-effects of multi-tasking have had life coach experts more than worried.
Emerging studies are pointing to some well-observed truths: multi-taskers are prone to making mistakes, more likely to miss important information and cues and less capable of retaining information in their working memory. In a nutshell, attention deficit disorders are spreading like fire at the workplace. It’s time to apply the breaks.
Over the past decade, advances in neuroimaging have been revealing how the brain focuses, what impairs focus — and how easily the brain is distracted. It has also been discovered that the brain can be trained to ignore distractions.
The most important step to develop high-quality focus is to curb emotional frenzy. It is a feeling of being a little out of control, often underpinned by anxiety, sadness, anger, and related emotions. Emotions are processed by the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped brain structure. It responds powerfully to negative emotions, which are regarded as signals of threat.
Negative emotions interfere with the brain’s ability to solve problems or do other cognitive work. Positive emotions and thoughts do the opposite — they improve the brain’s executive function, and so help open the door to creative and strategic thinking.
The challenge is to improve the balance of positive and negative emotions by taming negative emotional frenzy by exercising, meditating and sleeping well.
It is also important to learn to apply the brakes. Distractions are always lurking: wayward thoughts, emotions, sounds, or interruptions. Fortunately, the brain is designed to instantly stop a random thought or an unnecessary action. Become aware of your options, you can stop what you are doing and address the distraction, or you can let it go. At the workplace ensure that meetings are distraction free and employees are giving undivided attention.
When you turn your attention to a new task, shift your focus from your mind to your body. Go for a walk, climb stairs, do some deep breathing or stretches. Even if you aren’t aware of it, when you are doing this your brain continues working on your past tasks. Sometimes new ideas emerge during such physical breaks.
• Over achievers tend to multi-task
• Multi-tasking leads to attention deficit disorder
• Train your brain to avoid distractions
Debasree Banerjee is Corporate Communications Manager of Blue Ocean Academy, Dubai