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Multitasking Is Toxic to Brain Health

A Woman in the Kitchen Looking at the Computer Cooking; Multitasking; Distractions. IStock# 476295592.

Multitasking is Toxic to Brain Health

The brain is wired to perform one task at a time. When you believe you are multitasking, your brain is actually switching quickly between tasks, causing frontal lobe fatigue that decreases cognitive efficiency and performance. Decreasing your multitasking by even 10% can have significant brain health benefits. The fact is, the brain is just not designed for multitasking. Science very clearly demonstrates that when presented with competing tasks that require thought, the brain rapidly switches between them. This rapid switching comes at a high cost to our brain function — neurally, cognitively, and in terms of overall well-being. It’s a toxic habit that leads to shallow and less focused thinking, depleted creativity and an increased tendency to make errors. And over time it contributes to chronic stress, which is known to be detrimental to brain health. Single-tasking is the antidote—we call it “the brain power of one” in our SMART™ training tools. Practice these three tips to promote this brain-healthy habit, offered by Center for BrainHealth clinician Stacy Vernon, MS, LPC, NCC: 1. Limit distractions: Extra stimuli in your environment take away from your brain power when you need to think deeply and creatively, so protect your workspace from common distractors — including people and pets as well as notifications on your digital devices. 2. Create a brain management schedule: Plan your day so you can carve out time to focus on tasks requiring deep thinking — even if it is just for 15 to 20 minutes — during a time when you allow no interruptions. 3. Jot down things that come to mind spontaneously: Our mind is an amazing organ—like when we suddenly think of something we almost forgot to do. The idea comes to mind and then takes over our thoughts or diverts our action. One of the biggest culprits that hinders single-tasking is our busy-brain syndrome—thinking about other "to-dos" while we are working on a task. We know that life happens anyway, but by keeping a writing pad nearby you can make a quick note rather than jumping into the new task. You will feel a sense of resolution, and most importantly, your brain can remain calm, in the zone, and continue to think deeply and stay focused.

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