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How Multitasking Affects Productivity and Brain Health

How Multitasking Affects Productivity and Brain Health

We’d like to believe that we can multitask while working on critical things – responding to emails, text messages, switching between many tabs on a browser, and scrolling through social media feeds — but our brains disagree.

Our brains aren’t designed to do more than one thing at a time, according to neuroscientists. And attempting to multitask damages our brains in ways that have a negative impact on our health, mental function, and productivity.

How the Brain Works


Multitasking is controlled by executive functions in the brain. These are in charge of controlling and managing cognitive processes, as well as determining how, when, and in what order specific tasks are carried out.

The executive control process is divided into two stages:

  • Goal shifting : Changing your goals is deciding to do one thing instead of another.
  • Role activation: This turns off the previous task’s rules (how the brain completes a task) and turns on the new task’s rules.

When you think you’re multitasking, you’re actually switching goals and turning rules on and off in fast succession. You may not notice the shifts because they are rapid (tenths of a second), but the delays and lack of focus can mount up.

Multitasking is Bad for Students


Students in today’s digital environment have an increasing number of things competing for their attention, whether it’s checking social media while studying or attempting to finish numerous school tasks at the same time. According to a research by Common Sense Media, half of students admit to watching TV or using social media while doing school work, while 60% admit to texting while doing school work.

The negative effect of multitasking on students:

  • A weaker grasp on the information being learned
  • Students’ memory of the content they’ve learned is poor.
  • Stress and frustration levels are higher.
  • Too many jobs at once cause brain depletion.
  • Distractions cause each work to take longer to finish.

The following suggestions can help students break the habit of multitasking:

  • Turn off your phone.
  • Remove anything that isn’t required.
  • Make the most of your time.
  • Maintain a study schedule.
  • Distracting websites should be blocked.
  • Studying in front of the television is not a good idea.

Multitasking Damages Brain and Career

Multitasking is less productive than performing one item at a time, according to Stanford University research. Heavy multitaskers—those who multitask frequently and believe it improves their performance—were found to be worse at multitasking than those who prefer to do one thing at a time.

Because your brain can only focus on one item at a time, multitasking affects your efficiency and performance. When you try to do two things at once, your brain is unable to do both activities.

Multitasking Lowers IQ

Multitasking has been shown to reduce IQ. Multitasking men’s IQ tests dropped 15 points, putting them in the range of an 8-year-old child. It makes you work slower and lowers the quality of your job. Multitasking, according to significant study, makes you and those around you less clever. 

When you multitask, your intellect is reduced, as assessed by your capacity to grasp what you see and hear.

Here are 6 ways multitasking is killing your brain and productivity according to neuroscientists

1. Multitasking reduces efficiency and mental performance :

“When we flip between tasks, the process frequently feels seamless, but in reality, it takes a series of minor shifts,” says Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world’s best experts on human cognition, attention, and learning.

Each tiny change incurs a cognitive cost. Switching between replying to emails and drafting an important paper, for example, depletes valuable brain resources and energy.

Miller’s statement is backed up by research from the University of California, which found that refocusing on a work after an interruption takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds. [three]

And that’s only one of the many interruptions! Consider how much time can be lost due to constant interruptions throughout the day.

2. Multitasking could make you dumber

Participants who multitasked saw IQ reductions to the average level of an 8-year-old child, according to a study done by the University of London.

Consider whether there would be much of a difference between the quality of your work and that of an 8-year-old child the next time you’re about to multitask while writing an important email or paper.

They discovered that pupils who utilized Facebook and texted while doing coursework had a poorer GPA and grades than those who didn’t. 

Multitasking inhibits our ability to learn and process information efficiently since it requires quality focus and concentration.

3. Multitasking creates stress and anxiety


Multitasking promotes the synthesis of cortisol, a stress hormone, in our brain, according to much research.

Anxiety rises up when we’re pressured and mentally exhausted. As a result, stress builds up. It’s a never-ending cycle of worry and anxiety.

Multitasking, on the other hand, isn’t for everyone. The email inbox is by far one of the most stressful factors. When we swing between reading and responding to emails, we release too much cortisol.

Declutter your email inbox as quickly as possible if you suffer from stress and anxiety.

4. Multitasking leads to stupid decisions

Multitasking impairs decision-making abilities as well. The vital ‘willpower muscle’ is wasted by repeatedly moving between jobs.

Multitasking, according to neurologist Daniel Levitin, can lead to impulsive behavior and poor decisions. “One of the first things we lose is impulse control,” he says. This quickly depletes us to the point that, after making a slew of inconsequential decisions, we can wind up making absolutely terrible decisions on something important.”

As a result, deferring gratification and exercising the self-control required to achieve our objectives becomes much more difficult.

5. Multitasking causes overwhelm and burnout

“Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they require to stay on task,” says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. Multitasking, on the other hand, leads the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we become weary and disoriented after only a short period of time. Our brain’s nutrients have been drained to the point of depletion.”

6. Multitasking could reduce emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a common trait among 90 percent of high performers in any sector, according to a significant study undertaken by Travis Bradberry, best-selling author and emotional intelligence expert. Multitasking, according to Bradberry, may harm the anterior cingulate cortex, which is important for emotional intelligence.

Furthermore, due to multitasking, the two major components of emotional intelligence, self and social awareness, may suffer severely.

Tips to Stop Multitasking

Single-tasking is the most effective strategy to preserve your brain. To recoup your energy, concentrate on one item at a time and take breaks every hour and a half. Keep phones and media gadgets out of sight when working in a distraction-free workplace.

  • Prioritize key tasks first thing in the morning.
  • Get away from distractions to avoid distractions.
  • Make it a habit to consider long-term on a regular basis.
  • Take a real and consistent test.
  • Set aside time for specific tasks.
  • Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning.
  • Make a to-do list for each day.
  • Prepare yourself to say no.
  • Maintain a clean and well-organized work environment.
  • Recognize your multitasking tendencies.
  • Apps that block distractions are a good option.
  • When you’re not using your phone, turn it off.
  • Make multiple breaks a priority.
  • Boost your concentration.


Unfortunately, despite the evidence, multitasking has already been embedded in our culture and workplace.  But The good news is that instructors can teach their kids how to multitask effectively. Teenagers and young adults are more prone to the negative impacts of multitasking, such as absentmindedness, lack of focus, and frequent mistakes, because they were raised with cellphones and the internet. Simultaneously, pupils can establish strong work and study habits that will help them resist the need to multitask.

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