What Are the Risks of Multitasking?

    Multitasking is something that many people participate in daily, yourself likely included.

    With busy schedules and several obligations to tend to, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. A common solution to this is multitasking to address several needs at once.

    This can be as simple as eating while you drive or more complex like talking on the phone while you try to work. Doing any two tasks simultaneously means that you’re multitasking, but it also means that you’re being ineffective.

    Only 2% of people can effectively multitask, indicating that you might be wasting your time trying to tackle multiple needs at once. When you’re focusing on multiple tasks, your brain constantly switches between them and this creates a delay that begins to add up over time.

    To give you more incentive to avoid multitasking, we’ll cover a few of the biggest risks it poses below. 

    Reduced Productivity

    One of the greatest misconceptions is that multitasking improves your productivity. In contrast, you are less productive when you multitask.

    It stands to reason that to do anything well, you need to devote your full attention to it. For example, a task like driving requires you to always be focused. Should you choose to distract yourself, you become a worse driver and less capable of preventing an accident.

    If you need your full attention to do something, then how can you possibly do two things well at once? Isn’t at least one of them going to suffer as a result?

    The answer is yes and that’s because your brain can only focus effectively on one thing at a time. When you multitask, you’re constantly switching gears and placing a strain on your brain.

    Because of this, the quality of your work will be reduced. It is also likely that it takes you longer to complete both tasks. 

    When you’re fully focused on a single task at a time and switching when completed, you’re far more productive and eliminate time wasted from the frequent switching of multitasking.

    Decreased Cognition

    Multitasking also results in decreased cognition.

    This is because more is being expected from your brain than usual. Imagine that you’re juggling. Are you going to work harder to juggle two balls or three? What about four?

    The more balls you have to juggle, the tougher it will be for you to focus. Furthermore, you’ll be less capable of tending to anything else as you’ll be preoccupied with everything that you’re trying to manage.

    When your brain needs to work harder to finish what it’s doing, your cognitive skills take a hit. Severe multitasking impairs your cognitive skills to the same degree of being intoxicated.

    This means that multitasking makes you less sharp. You may struggle more with the content you’re working with and take longer to process it. 

    More Mistakes

    You also make more mistakes while multitasking.

    There are two main reasons why this is the case; you aren’t paying attention and your cognitive skills are impaired.

    When you’re busy multitasking, you’re typically more worried about finishing your work than you are about doing it perfectly. As a result, you may rush and overlook minor errors. In some situations, you may even make outright mistakes.

    With the impairment that multitasking brings, you might do something incorrectly that you usually understand. This might mean that you forget the right answer in the moment and don’t figure it out until later when it is too late. 

    Putting this all together, mistakes are unavoidable when you’re multitasking. You’re simply overseeing and tackling too much at once to properly do and assess if everything is being done accurately. 

    Poor Mental State

    If you multitask, then you may also deal with a poor mental state

    This can appear in several different ways.

    First, multitaskers are often stressed and more irritable than those that tackle a single objective at a time. They’re also more prone to feeling overwhelmed under pressure.

    Second, multitasking can create a feedback loop. When you multitask and complete minor and insignificant tasks, you feel more productive than you are. This can make you feel defeated and exhausted when you discover how far behind you are. 

    Lastly, chronic multitasking can lead to permanent complications in your brain. MRI scans have detected less brain density in the region of the brain responsible for regulating your emotions and empathy.

    This means that multitaskers may be less effective at handling their emotions and keeping calm. The thought of permanent brain damage is surely terrifying, especially from doing something that you thought was helpful. 

    With all of this in mind, multitasking is bad for your brain and mental state. It affects your mood, emotions, and the portion of the brain that regulates them. 

    Safety Concerns

    Lastly, multitasking can pose safety concerns.

    This is relevant when you choose to multitask in situations that can be hazardous. The best example of this is multitasking while driving.

    Should you choose to look at your phone, unwrap something to eat, chat with a friend, grab something from the back seat, or do anything other than driving, you are putting yourself in a dangerous scenario.

    With impaired cognitive skills and a higher risk of making mistakes, an accident is much more likely when you’re multitasking. On the other hand, if you focus on the road, then you can avoid a potential crash by using the concepts of defensive driving.

    If you’re doing anything even remotely dangerous, don’t do anything else at the same time! Take it seriously and give it your full attention as it demands. 

    Closing Thoughts

    You might view multitasking as a harmless necessity, but it’s not as innocent and useful as you may think. Multitasking is not good for your brain and it makes you less adept at whatever you’re trying to do. 

    A few other risks of multitasking include reduced productivity, decreased cognition, more mistakes, a poor mental state, and safety concerns. Very few people can multitask well and this means that doing it is setting yourself up for disaster!

    Remember that multitasking doesn’t save you any time and it hurts your brain! Take things one at a time and you’ll be shocked at how much better you can handle your work! 


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