Let’s face it. There’s a lot of information and activity out there. So much, in fact, that it’s impossible to keep up with it all. And yet we try. Like bees seeking pollen, our attention flits from task to task, from email to phone call, from text to Twitter, from LinkedIn to Facebook and back again at a dizzying rate throughout the day. Heaven forbid that we should miss something. This “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, is creating an army of multitaskers and adrenaline junkies who are stressed and, well, not as productive as they think they are.
Let’s talk about FOMO and the sheer volume of content some are trying to keep up with. A daunting task indeed. According to statistics from Micro Focus, Internet activity in 2016 included:
-More than 350,000 Tweets per minute
-400 hours of new video on YouTube per minute
-3 million Facebook posts per minute
-4 million Google searches conducted worldwide each minute of every day
-In the US, 4 million text messages sent per minute
Even the most adept multitasker could never keep up with it all, so why do we keep trying? Maybe it’s time to take a step back, breathe deeply, and learn to focus. Besides, multitasking is detrimental to your health, and research shows it does not make you more productive.
In a BeBrainFit.com article, The Cognitive Costs of Multitasking, the author points out that while most of us are capable of doing two things at once, such as carrying on a conversation while walking or drinking coffee while driving, “what we can’t do is learn or concentrate on two things at once.” When the brain receives more information than it can process, she says, it queues up the first two pieces and ignores the rest.
Some other startling gems from the research in her article:
-Multitasking costs the US economy an estimated $650 billion annually in wasted productivity
-After an interruption, such as a phone call or checking email, it can take 5 minutes to get back into your workflow
-Studies show that multitasking stunts emotional intelligence and makes us less creative
-Chronic multitaskers have more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, making them slower at switching gears
-According to brain scans, chronic multitaskers have less gray matter in their brains, which is linked to depression, anxiety and poor impulse control
-Excessive multitasking meets the criteria of an addiction – you can’t easily quit, you suffer withdrawal symptoms when you try, and you’re aware of the negative consequences but you do it anyway
Yikes! And it’s not just your brain and productivity that are affected. Multitasking can be a safety hazard as well. Texting drivers are 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk drivers.
So what are we to do? Start with a self-awareness check. What’s your workflow like during the day? Are you constantly checking your phone, stopping tasks to check email, or taking a peek at Twitter to make sure the world hasn’t ended? If so, time to get a handle on that habit.
Consider chunking your tasks into 25-30 minute segments, focusing on one task only during that time period. Schedule your email checks, phone calls, and confirmation that the earth is still turning at specific times during the day. Say, every two to three hours. Believe me, if something major happens in the meantime, someone else will let you know!
And practice mindfulness. Allow yourself some time every day to unplug, sit outside or some other place that’s quiet, and just be. Whatever you’re missing out on is not as important as your personal health and well-being.
Till next time,