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Brain power

Boost Your Brain Power by Saying “No” to Multitasking

This blog is inspired by the work of Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman and Shelly Kirkland.  Sandra is the founder and chief director of Center for BrainHealth, and is a distinguished University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas.

We live in a fast-paced world where everyone is constantly on the run; yet this negatively influences our brain power and reduces the mind’s ability to be creative and to rest. Pausing and allowing your mind to build connections is not the same as strengthening your brain by multitasking. The human brain is simply not created to multitask. Most of us live with the misconception that multitasking works the brain to reduce health problems such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Though it is true that working the brain is helpful, there is a right way to do it. Games such as crossword puzzles and word searches are excellent ways to challenge the brain; in fact it is encouraged that we all challenge our brain by doing activities that are not only fun, but intellectual. Such activities provide us the time to stop, think and focus only on one task and not multiple tasks. For example, when playing chess, our only priority is the game and devising strategies. When we multitask, we take power away from our brain because multitasking “diminishes strategic attention” (Chapman 2013). Multitasking provides continuous interruptions in any task.

Instead of multitasking, try these strategies:

  • The next time you have to do several tasks, focus on one task at a time.
    • If you do not have enough time to focus on one task at a time then try doing it in short segments of time. For example, if you have 40 minutes to accomplish two tasks, begin with one task, focus on it for a full 20min and then move on to the next task.
  • Allow your mind to rest by pressing pause on your day and your mind.
    • The Aha moments in life come to life when our brains are resting and we clear our minds.
  • Exercise strategic attention. This is about recognizing that less is more and allows us to filter and prioritize what is most important, to set goals and achieve them.
    • Create To-Do-Lists. This helps to organize your days so that you focus on accomplishing one thing at a time, and give priority to things that are most important.
    • Be mindful and aware of your thought process and actions. Ask yourself these questions:
      • Do I jump from one task to the next without finishing the first task?
      • Do I feel drained, mentally tired?
      • Do I sleep enough?
      • Does my brain constantly have the need to block out certain thoughts or sounds?

The concept of multitasking is often rewarded at work versus accomplishing one thing at a time. Workplaces need to encourage and promote cognitive growth by recognizing the importance of focus and completing one task at a time.

Negative Impacts of Multitasking:

  • Brain cells die
  • Stress hormones (cortisol) increase
  • Results in memory loss
  • Brain fatigue
  • Decrease in mental processing
  • Problem-solving skills reduce
  • Less focused thinking
  • Continuous distractions
  • Frustration

Do you ever feel that you have not been making good decisions? Or that you know you are smart and capable, but lately you are not motivated, you are tired, and you find yourself overwhelmed and overthinking things? It is hard to be the best you can be when you are mentally drained and feel incapable of making rational decisions. Decision-making and problem-solving are skills that require patience, concentration, focus, commitment, as well as time.

Understanding your brain’s needs and moving away from multitasking to a more focused approach will help you to mentally flourish and has the power to transform your life. A happier mind is a happier you.

Chapman, S. B., Kirkland, S. (2013). Make Your Brain Smarter. A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York: NY, ISBN 978-1-4516-6547-5