This summer, I wrote an article called, ‘ADHD and Single Tasking’; all about why single tasking is the new multi-tasking. You can check it out here. If you are still multi-tasking, don’t feel bad. Today’s article explains why multi-tasking is compelling.
Daniel J. Levitin, a psychology professor at McGill University and author of the book, ‘The Organized Mind’, explains we can’t really multi-task because the brain can only do one thing at once. Rather than do 4 things at a time, the brain rapidly moves from one activity to the next.
However, every time we shift focus, we burn glucose, which is the food our neurons use. After a couple of hours of speedy shifting, we feel drained. In addition to using up our glucose store, cortisol (the stress hormone) has also been released, causing us to feel edgy and warping our self-perception.
This bit is key! When we are in this tired, edgy state, we think we are good at multi-tasking, but we aren’t; we just think we are. Levitin likens it to thinking we can drive safely after drinking a lot of alcohol.
When you have ADHD, multi-tasking can be part of your life for few reasons:
1) You are scared to forget to do something. You act on the thought right away, regardless of what you are working on when it popped into your mind.
2) You have a low threshold for boredom, uni-tasking feels boring.
3) You crave stimulation; so by flitting from one thing to the next quickly, life seems more exciting.
However, with your new knowledge that no one is good at multi-tasking (even you), experiment with single-tasking. Switch off your phone, close down all the windows open on your computer and give one task all your attention. If it feels weird at first, sit through that feeling. If you remember something you need to do, jot it down on a notepad, so you don’t forget and bring your focus back to the task at hand. Not only will you feel calmer, more energized, you will also get a lot more done!
Are you a multi-tasker or a single tasker? Let me know in the comments section below!