Multitasking Is Detrimental To Focus And Long-Term Brain Health
Scientific research tells us that as we age we are more easily distracted by irrelevant information, particularly when experiencing stress or powerful emotions.
“Increased distractibility is a sign of cognitive aging,” says Professor Mara Mather, an expert on memory at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. This is not good news for senior leaders, the majority of whom are no longer classified as young adults.
While we will discuss the impact of stress on decision making in later blog posts, there can be little doubt that stress also deteriorates one’s ability to focus. Here again, mindfulness techniques can be used to help regain focus and drown out environmental disturbances such as noises and sounds.
We also know from research that multitasking is detrimental to focus. It will be interesting to see if the penchant for multitasking via electronic devices by the Millennial Generation will speed up distractibility as they age. This predilection for multitasking is certainly not training their brains on the skill of focus.
Handling a multitude of low-level decisions, especially early in the day, can be distracting and cognitively consuming. For one thing, doing so reduces the full supply of cognitive resources the brain has after a good night’s sleep.
Thus, it is far better to handle the most challenging mental tasks early in the day when cognitive resources are at a peak. This is why some people now try to eliminate as many low-level choices, ranging from what to wear to what to eat, in the morning. Some, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, even go to the extent of wearing the same outfits every day.
Personally, I would not take it to that extreme, but to each their own.