Multitasking is an illusion.
Most of us claim to be excellent multitaskers. Yet, what we’re really doing is completing two individual actions in speedy succession.
Really, not even three percent of the population can effectively do two things at once. “Effectively” is the keyword.
As a human being, you’re naturally wired to focus on one thing at a time. Mono-tasking, per se.
This doesn’t mean you always choose to function that way. In fact, most people attempt to cram as much into their day as possible. But these daily choices could be increasing your anxiety and lowering the quality of your life.
Here’s what I mean.
Understand the Alluring Impact of Multitasking
Multitasking has an addictive quality to it.
Each time you accomplish a tiny task, such as checking social media, your body produces a small amount of dopamine. This chemical release makes you feel good, but is short-lived.
However, most people respond to it by continuing to engage in the tiny tasks associated with multitasking. Its effect is that you start to rely on quantity over quality.
Unsurprisingly, this causes anxiety to increase as your life quality decreases overall.
It can be difficult to identify this in your own life because it actually feels good. Even though the “feel good” comes in miniscule waves, you still feel it overall. For some, it’s almost addicting.
How Multitasking Causes Mental Fatigue
Although there is just enough of a dopamine rush enticing you to multitask, that’s not the only chemical playing a part.
Each time you multitask, your brain has to work harder to mentally “shift gears.” A few shifts are manageable. However, grinding your mental gears in overdrive is going to exhaust your brain.
This rapid-fire switching soon releases cortisol, causing you to feel stressed. Aside from the incredible overwhelm of information overload, this negative impact can quickly increase anxiety.
Lack of Genuine Accomplishment
Unlike building Rome brick by brick, large goals aren’t always accomplished one tiny task at a time.
Rather, significant goals in life tend to call for a chunk of focused mental effort as well as a high level of concentration. Although the two acts seem similar, they’re slightly different. One is about focus and the other, engagement, neither of which can be accomplished via multitasking.
When you eliminate these big goals from your life–or simply fail to do your best on them–it removes a much-needed sense of accomplishment and relevancy.
Without purpose, anxiety takes center stage.
Accept That You Get Less Done
Aside from preventing or delaying you from accomplishing big goals, multitasking can increase anxiety, causing you to get less done.
Most of us have a daily to-do list that is miles long. Such is life in the modern world.
Yet, when you commit to doing just one thing at a time, you seem to check more things off your list.
Conversely, multitasking helps you accomplish only a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But you may feel like you’re accomplishing more simply due to the influence of dopamine.
When you closely review your day, there isn’t much you can check off your to-do list. For most multitaskers, this is a huge problem, resulting in high anxiety and its negative effects, mentally, physically and even relationally.
Take the first step…
If you struggle with anxiety, and you’re ready to take the next step in resolving those issues, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT