The Truth About Media Multitasking

If you want to hold onto your brain cells, you may need to change your media habits. Focusing on one task at a time is good for your health.

That’s the lesson from a recent university study that found that using multiple devices at once was linked to a loss of brain tissue. Previous studies have found that chronic multitasking can weaken your attention span, memory, emotional intelligence, and social skills.

Protect your grey matter by doing less and accomplishing more. Try these tips for becoming more single-minded.

Resist Media Multitasking 

Ironically, multitasking feels good in the short term. It’s stimulating and satisfying to cross multiple items off your to do list. You may need some support to help change your habits.

Try these strategies to break the media chains that bind you: 

  1. Understand how your brain works. Media multitasking is problematic because you’re doing complex tasks that draw on the same resources. For example, it’s better to avoid talking with your child’s teacher and reading the financial pages at the same time because both require your full attention.

  2. Shut off your phone. Remove the temptation to check your messages. Power off your phone, tablet, and other devices for a few hours a day.

  3. Post your hours. Maybe you’re concerned that others expect you to be accessible throughout the day. Let them know in advance when they can reach you and when you’ll be offline.
  4. Schedule breaks. You’re more likely to multitask when you’re losing interest in something. Take a 10 minute breather each hour to avoid the temptation to multitask.
  5. Do a status check. Catch yourself when you’re researching medical symptoms and editing a marketing proposal at the same time. Slow down. Switch to doing one thing at a time.

  6. Alternate between activities. You can still juggle multiple responsibilities and pastimes. Arrange your workday so that you update your database or clean up your files in between calling clients. If you’ve been cleaning the garage all morning, take a walk before you tackle the basement.

  7. Think long term. You’ll avoid multitasking when you keep the long term consequences in mind. Imagine how much you’ll enjoy thinking more clearly and having increased energy.

Maximize Learning 

Multitasking is especially detrimental when it comes to learning. Students who text during class gain less knowledge and have more difficulty applying the information they do remember.

If you or your kids are trying to spice up a boring lesson, try these alternatives instead of checking your Facebook page: 

  1. Set goals. It’s easier to stay engaged when you clarify your purpose. Consider how that career training session could help you to attain a promotion or raise.
  2. Play games. Turn any activity into a contest, even if you’re competing with just yourself. If you’re studying a foreign language, use a crossword generator to transform your vocabulary drills into interesting puzzles.
  3. Form a circle. Reach out to others who are trying to learn the same information and skills. Invite a co-worker to join you as you practice using an updated software program.

  4. Experiment with different approaches. Keep up with the latest research on learning strategies to see what works for you. You may find it easier to study in silence while your best friend thrives on background noise.

Putting down your phone and closing a few browser windows can make you happier and more productive. Ask yourself what’s most important at that moment. Then, give that task your full attention.

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