Single-tasking improves brain performance

One task at a time benefits brain and body

Anyone perusing the classified job ads will notice the word “multi-tasking” appears quite often. Employers are looking for employees who can handle several duties at once. The pace of life in the 21st century has revved up for everyone and not just at work. A mother driving her child to daycare must simultaneously keep her eyes on the road while talking on a hands-free phone and attempting to calm her cranky toddler in the back seat.

Sandra Bond, Ph.D., is the author of “Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Creativity, Energy and Focus.” She condenses 30 years of research into her book, providing tips on how to improve brain performance no matter a person’s age. One tip is the elimination of multi-tasking, which she refers to as “toxic.”

The average workplace puts a high value on the ability to multi-task with the belief that the more a person can do simultaneously indicates intelligence and efficiency. Bond says that multi-tasking drains the brain and exhausts the mind, contributing to early mental decline and decreased alertness. Chronic multi-taskers have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which that can be damaging to the memory area of the brain.

According to Bond, the brain is designed to do one thing at a time and when multi-tasking, it switches back and forth from one job to the next. When driving and talking on the phone, scans have shown that there is limited activation of the visual part of the brain suggesting a person is driving without carefully watching, which explains how people sometimes arrive at a destination without knowing exactly how they got there.

Flipping between jobs overloads the brain making it less efficient, thoughts remain on the surface and mistakes happen more often. It can be a difficult habit to break, teens and young adults are constantly connected to email, smartphones and social media apps. Some tech users like the immediate satisfaction of beeps and buzzes, triggers that release dopamine in the brain, sustaining the need for stimulation making the cycle hard to break.

Bond recommends single-tasking, that is, getting things done in a sequential manner. The brain is wired for deep and innovative thinking that cannot be accomplished when forced to go in two directions at once. Abandoning multi-tasking brings immediate benefits, increasing creativity, energy and focus.

Bond says distraction-free focus increases accuracy, innovation and speed. She recommends turning off phones and laptops and doing one task at a time. A to-do list can prioritize daily tasks. Giving those tasks prime brain time boosts the feeling of efficient production. Bond’s tips, along with a healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep will keep mind and body functioning well.

For those looking for more tips to manage stress and anxiety, help is available. Trained professionals can provide treatment for the mental health conditions that come with a fast-paced life. If you would like further information, please call the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline at any time to be connected with an effective treatment provider.