Multitasking is a natural part of being human. It’s not a flaw – it’s a property. This is because our evolutionary history required human beings to do two things at one time. If our ancestors weren’t able to scavenge for food while also looking out for predators, they wouldn’t have lived long.
As a result, we now experience the pull to want to do two things at once. But just because we’re wired to want to do two things at once, does that mean we should?
Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University, did a research study with 262 students with the assumption that frequent multitasking students would perform better on tasks than students who didn’t multitask at all.
The assumption made by Nass was wrong.
“It turns out that high multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy. They were outperformed on every measure. Although they’d convinced themselves and the world that they were great at it, there was just one problem: Multitaskers were just lousy at everything.”
The idea of multitasking is one of the greatest lies that people believe in because nearly everyone thinks that multitasking is an effective thing to do. But even though multitasking isn’t at all effective by any measure, why do so many people still try to reason to themselves that it is?
Well, research shows that frequent multitaskers actually experience a burst of dopamine when they switch back and forth from task to task. These bursts of dopamine can be very addictive to multitaskers. Without it, frequent multitaskers will feel bored.
This feeling of boredom, according to professor and author Cal Newport, is typical for people. In his book “Deep Work,” Newport says that when you’re focused and engaged on doing something, whether it’s writing an article, reading a book, or working on a project, you will occasionally get bored.
Unfortunately, many people have lost their tolerance for boredom. So, what do they do? They multitask. At the first sight of boredom, people will go on their phone, check their email, go on YouTube, etc.
Based on this, it seems then that multitaskers do multiple things at a time, not because they’re skillful at multitasking, but because they get bored when they try to sit down and focus on something for a duration of time. Then they reason to themselves that they’re great at multitasking, when in fact, they’re just really bad at focusing.
However, if you want to find success in what you’re doing, then you must learn to embrace boredom and focus your attention on whatever it is you’re working on. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it.
The hard thing about focusing, though, is that it isn’t easy. Concentration isn’t natural, but it’s a skill that has to be learned and developed if you want to be productive and efficient. If you don’t, the penalty of multitasking can be very expensive in relation to your success.