Why it’s Hard to Stop Multi-tasking!

Why it’s Hard to Stop Multi-tasking!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!



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  1. tanya says:

    Hi Jacqueline, great information, everyday by about 3 or 4pm my mood is horrible, i am aggitated and grumpy. Its also taking me 11 to 12 hours of sleep just to feel like i have had 8 or 9 hours and i think your article may have just enlightened me as to why. I like most have a very busy life and everyday i do jump from one thing to the next and never really feel like i have accomplished any of the tasks well as i need to get on to the next one. Today i will make my list, prioratize, get out my timer and accomplish, one thing at a time, thanks

    • Hi Tanya
      That is great you made the connection between the number of hours you sleep and multi tasking. Using your timer for 15 minutes at a time will help you to develop your new habit of focusing on one thing a once. Good luck! I know you will do great! and let me know if your sleeping pattern changes

  2. This is so useful, Jacqui. Seems kind of diabolical that one reason it’s hard to stop multi-tasking is because multi-tasking itself creates the delusion that we can! Thanks for the compelling reason to stop trying to multi-task, and a strategy for eliminating the habit.

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