Today I have one single mission, to bring you one single message:

Stop BAD Multitasking.

Turns out there’s Good Multitasking — the kind that makes you more focused and creative, and Bad Multitasking — the kind that makes you distracted, inefficient, stressed, and accident prone.

Two Kinds of Multitasking
According to business coach Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking, the GOOD type of multitasking is doing a mindless, routine activity as you focus on another, such as folding the laundry while you talk on the phone or listening to music while you cook dinner. This kind of multitasking, which he calls “background tasking”, actually works, and like doodling, it may actually improve your concentration.

Ever talk on the phone while driving, even for just a minute? That’s another type of multitasking, defined by Crenshaw as “rapid task-switching”, which means trying to juggle two or more activities at once that require equal focus and concentration. Turns out, motorists talking on a phone (even hands free) are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.  That’s according to research done by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Rapid task-switching, or Bad multitasking, could also be something as seemingly harmless as trying to write an email while having a conversation, in-person or on instant messenger.

According to Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, a book from Harvard Health Publications, this form of multitasking increases the chances of making mistakes and missing important information and cues. Multitaskers are also less likely to retain information in working memory, which can hinder problem solving and creativity.

In “Prime Your Gray Cells,” an article posted to Psychology Today’s blog, Teresa Aubele and Susan Reynolds argue that scattering attention among tasks is a bad idea, not just because it’s difficult to keep up the juggling routine but also because it saps our ability to think creatively.

“The more tasks you add, the less efficient your brain is, and the less likely it is to focus on the most important task,” they write. “If you are allowing yourself to be besieged by an influx of information, you are more likely to have trouble making the creative leap required for original thought — or to make wise decisions.”

Their advice for improving brain function: Focus. Limit your access to such distractions as e-mail and cellphones, and give your subconscious some room to be creative.

Instead of trying to do several things at once—and often none of them well—Hammerness and Moore suggest what they call “set shifting”. This means consciously and completely shifting your attention from one task to the next, and focusing on the task at hand. Giving your full attention to what you are doing will help you do it better, with more creativity and fewer mistakes or missed connections. Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility, say the authors.

Join me for the FREE 28 Day Challenge: Freedom Through Mindfulness and support yourself in breaking the scattered mind habit.

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All My Best,