Another great book summary from my friends at Coaching on Call which explains the consequences of a lack of mindfulness.

Leadership Insights from Coaching on Call

The phenomenon of multitasking has been defined by psychiatrist Dr Edward Halliwell as “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously!”You Can’t Multitask (so stop trying!)- by Paul Atchley
Atchley reports that neuroscientists at the University of California monitored interruptions among office workers and found that it took an average of fifteen minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.
It was also found that multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory.
Multitasking adversely affects how we learn
Research by Professor Russell Poldrack shows that people use different areas of the brain for learning and storing new information when they are distracted: brain scans of people who are distracted or multitasking show activity in the striatum, a region of the brain involved in learning new skills; brain scans of people who are not distracted show activity in the hippocampus, a region involved in storing and recalling information. So even if you do learn while multitasking, that learning is less flexible and less accessible afterwards.
So why do we try?
There are various reasons why multitasking is more and more widely assumed to be desirable. These include:
  • Increase in technology – remote distractions and modes of communication (email, texts, messaging, internet searches,  etc.)
  • We’re hard wired to respond to social messaging and expanding our awareness of the group(s) we relate to – so we unconsciously scan for information all the time
  • We crave information because it makes us feel more comfortable – multiple sources of confirmation increases our confidence in our choices
  • The illusion of achievement – the buzz of activity makes us feel productive and needed
What can you do to avoid overload?
  1. Consciously approach one task at a time and stick with it. If the task is too large, chunk it down into sub-tasks and aim to complete these one at a time
  2. Take regular short breaks – preferably in the outdoors as frequent exposure to nature is shown to enhance receptivity and even increase IQ
  3. Know when to close your door to avoid interruption and use this time to focus intently on the task in hand
  4. Be clear about what information is useful and be on guard against just seeking more and more confirmation of what you have already decided in order to make you feel good – rather, seek out information that challenges you and therefore helps you make better decisions
  5. Check email / voice messages at pre-determined times rather than being constantly interrupted by them throughout the day
There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time
Lord Chesterfield – advice to his son in 1740

 

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