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How (and why) To Stop Multitasking

attention memory strategies memory support Aug 30, 2022
What's multitasking

The idea of multi-tasking is lying to you.

It’s selling you on the notion that you’re being ultra-productive, accomplishing two, three maybe even four things at once.

But are you really? And if you are, is it more effective?

What’s multitasking

Multitasking is working on two or more tasks at a time.

This may look like rapidly completing tasks in succession, with one bleeding into the next or switching back and forth between tasks.

Examples of multitasking:

  • Checking your email while listening to a podcast
  • Cooking dinner while reading a book
  • Having an in-person conversation while sending a text message
  • Scheduling an appointment while browsing social media

The truth about multitasking

While multitasking may make you feel more productive, focusing on one task at a time (or monotasking) is actually more efficient.

Our brains cannot complete two tasks at one time. So, if you’re completing more than one task at a time, you’re actually task switching.

Task switching:

  • Slows you down
  • Triggers more mistakes
  • Distracts you from the goal
  • Lowers your productivity
  • Impairs your attention

Not to mention, it’s mentally fatiguing.

And poor attention is one of the most common causes for bad memory.

Click here to read You’ll Never Have A Strong Memory Until You Improve Your Attention. Here’s How….

Is anyone good at it?

At this point in the article, you may be shaking your head and denying that this applies to you.

You might be thinking, “I’m good at multitasking” or “This isn’t true for me.”

But studies show that universally, multitasking dampens your ability to effectively and efficiently complete tasks.

The exception to the rule

While completing two or more tasks that require thinking takes a serious toll on your productivity there is an exception to the multitasking rule.

You can combine a physical task with a cognitive task efficiently. That means you can move your body and think or listen simultaneously.

Examples:

  • Listening to a podcast while you clean your kitchen
  • Listening to music while you go for a run
  • Playing an audio book while you're weeding your garden

In fact, pairing cognitive and physical movement is good for your brain. Aerobic activities like walking while completing a cognitive exercise, like simple math or navigating a maze, can improve functional cognition as you age.

Overcome multitasking

Multitasking is a hard to break habit. You've become conditioned to believe that more is better and therefore, you are used to doing multiple things at a time.

Even for entertainment purposes, you may find yourself filling the commercial break by glancing at your phone and then getting pulled so deep into social media, texting, searching, or scheduling that you find yourself watching a show, phone in hand the entire time, not ever able to really relax or stay focused on just one thing. 

Sound familiar? You can (and should) break this habit.

Benefits of reducing or eliminating multitasking:

  • Improved productivity
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Fewer mistakes
  • Better organization
  • More peace of mind

Stop multitasking by doing this instead…

Commit to the power of doing one task at a time. It might feel strange at first but allow yourself the space to experiment with these strategies to reduce or eliminate multitasking. I promise, the result is so worth it. Once I was able to master this skill, I went from scatter-brained to peaceful completing my (once stressful or overwhelming) tasks.

  1. Turn off distractions
  2. Get organized
  3. Prioritize
  4. Break down bigger goals into manageable parts
  5. Set time limits
  6. Schedule mind breaks
  7. Train your mind

 Let's get clear on how each strategy works to eliminate multitasking. 

  1. Turn off distractions. This allows you to limit distractions that are fighting for your attention. Distractions can be your phone, social media, your e-mail notifications, even your Apple watch.

Temporarily silence devices that are distracting you from your task. At times, we all end up scrolling mindlessly to procrastinate on the task at hand. Temporarily turning off, silencing, or removing your devices can help ward off distractions.

If you’re in a space where you can’t control the distractions consider using noise cancelling headphones or relocating to a quiet, less distracting area.

  1. Get organized. You need to know what needs to get done and when to do it. Having a plan will help you stay focused. Using a planner can help you stay organized. I like this Full Focus planner because it guides me through prioritizing my goals and how to reach them, which helps defeat overwhelm and improves my focus.
  2. Prioritize your tasks. Figure out what is most urgent and conquer those tasks first. Save the lesser important tasks for last. For example, when you come home from grocery shopping, it’s likely that you seek out the cold or frozen items to put away first. While all the items eventually need to be put away, the dry goods won’t spoil if it takes you some extra time to get to them. Think of your to-do list in the same manner. What requires your attention first? Save the lesser urgent tasks for later.
  3. Break down bigger goals into smaller more manageable parts. For example, if your goal was to clean out your kitchen you wouldn’t want to take out every item from the fridge, pantry and all of the cabinets at one time. That would be overwhelming, and it could lead you to task switch from one category of items to the next. It could also take a long time to see any progress if you have the entire kitchen pulled apart! Instead, prioritize by necessity and tackle one part at a time. When you finish the fridge, move on to the freezer, conquer the pantry and finally reorganize your cabinets. You’ll feel more accomplished and achieve the bigger goal more efficiently.
  4. Set time limits. If you’re working on a project that won’t be completed in one day, set a limit for how much time you plan to dedicate to that project each day/week. Get specific. In the Full Focus planner, they provide you with an hourly breakdown of each day so you can schedule your tasks and stay on track.
  5. Schedule breaks. Your mind is not a machine. If you find yourself distracted after a period of time or at a certain time each day, it’s a sign that you need a break. Schedule a break to take a quick walk, eat a snack or stop for lunch. Breaks are valuable time to refocus. 

Multitasking has become engrained within us. In school, in the workplace and at home it can feel like you need to do everything all at once to stay on track. The truth is that slowing down will improve your productivity, decrease overwhelm, restore your peace of mind and allow you to stay focused.

Why a memory health coach cares about multitasking

Attention and memory problems go hand in hand. And multitasking is one of the common causes for bad memory.

If you want to know how to improve your memory and focus, click here to read You’ll Never Have A Strong Memory Until You Improve Your Attention. Here’s How….

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Francine Waskavitz, owner and lead coach at Longevity Coaching, LLC. is a memory health expert dedicated to helping you get your memory back, strengthen it and keep it healthy for a lifetime.

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