How to Combine Productivity and Multitasking: Scientific Recommendations

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Doing several things at the same time is not recommended, but now science says otherwise. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, who runs a laboratory dedicated to the last Neurodiagnostics, has a research project with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead rock band, and investigates games that develop cognitive skills. But in his new book, Gazzaley says the following: human brains are not designed to continuously switch from one task to another, especially when it comes to technological devices, and the constant change of tasks in modern working life has negative effects. Gazzaley’s new book, written with Larry D. Rosen, a psychologist from California State University, Dominguez Hills, is named “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World”. In it, he shows the two strategies of details that anyone can use to mitigate the effects of multitasking and find a way to combine the demands of the culture of office today such as how to check your work email when you’re at home, or working on complex projects in a noisy and chaotic office with the need for human brain to focus on one thing. Combining productivity and multitasking is recommended now a days.

Gazzaley has an encouraging message: There are things we can do to focus more on the work, not necessarily doomed to a sea of notifications and endless email chains unanswered.

Here are some of his best tips:

#1 Know your limits

Know your limits

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Gazzaley said it was important “to understand that our brain has fundamental limitations” and we need to limit the clutter in our technological lives as a result. “Companies have created brilliant technological devices that are incredibly accessible: not only allow you to reach them at any time, but they also come to you.” Neuroscientist recommends scheduling time to do several tasks at once when you have low-level tasks requiring minimal care, are not very important or just boring. In order not to feel too overwhelmed, he recommends to a single tab in the web browser, closing the e-mail during an important job, and activating the “airplane mode” on the phone when you have to concentrate.

#2 Take breaks

Take breaks

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Gazzaley Take frequent breaks while working on difficult tasks to become cool. In this regard explains: “It’s like interval training. A break does not mean going to email, either, because that is a chain of activity that could get you out of your job. It is best to perform light physical activity, go out into nature, meditate or exercise. All this helps handle a distracted my mind.” In addition, Gazzaley states that large blocks of uninterrupted work can make our mind wander.

#3 Set expectations

Set expectations

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According to Gazzaley, if your coworkers distract you when you need to focus, it is important to set expectations when you are or you are not available to chat. “I live in San Francisco, and many of my friends work in the technology industry, and I see the value in terms of interactivity,” explains Gazzaley. “It’s a benefit to approaching a coworker and have a conversation, but when you have a task to complete, it becomes a distraction that can degrade performance.” That’s why you need some fixed expectations, and do something like put a sign on your desk that says, ‘Do Not Disturb’, or simply communicate with your colleagues to let them know you do not want to be hassled,” he explains.

You can also use headphones as a sign that you are offline to communicate – that’s reasonable. In the end, it comes down to the work culture. Gazzaley notes that there are now certain expectations in many jobs you should contact your colleagues while you’re on vacation, at home at night or on weekends. According to him, that’s what contributes to “expectations of productivity and accessibility 24 hours a day.”

However, neuroscientist adds that it is necessary to leave time for rest in order to avoid fatigue and stress. Otherwise, you’ll have a worse performance at work, and the question of multitasking ends without sense.


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