In my post about block scheduling, I shared with you why it’s better to concentrate on just one thing at a time if you want to feel calmer. I gave you a few examples of the benefits of single-tasking and alluded to some dangers of multitasking. Today, I’d like to elaborate on that a bit. Even among homeschoolers (and maybe especially among homeschoolers), multitasking is a problem. In our society in general, it causes stress, lost productivity, and lower quality work, among other issues. In homeschooling families, multitasking impacts our children as well as us. This isn’t just my opinion. Research shows that there are dangers of multitasking. Let’s take a look at some of the ways this pressure to do more in less time can hurt you and your family, both physically and mentally.
The Dangers of Multitasking
Research demonstrates that people who multitask the most are actually more distractible than those who do so less frequently. Researchers believe that the constant rapid switching from task to task can lead to difficulty in determining which interruptions are important and which aren’t. Therefore, you’ll find yourself being pulled away by any minor distraction. The constant switching between tasks that we see in young people causes them to have shortened attention spans, too.
More Physical Accidents
The distractibility of multitasking can have real, physically harmful results. When your mind is unable to concentrate fully on a task, it’s easy to make careless errors. In fact, one study of New York City pedestrians found a significant percentage of those hit by cars reported that they were using their cellphones when they were hit. How many times have we burned ourselves on the stove, tripped, or walked into something because of our distraction? What about our kids?
Quickly moving from one activity to another on a regular basis can lead to memory problems. The reason is because this constant switching disrupts short-term memory. It can also cause you to miss noticing details that might be important, damaging recall. Details like a doctor appointment that wasn’t written down because you were cooking, talking to the nurse, and trying to answer your child’s question. Have you ever done this? I know I have. Sometimes, we can’t avoid it. But, all too often, it’s the norm. Do you chalk your faulty memory up to age? Maybe it’s not age after all.
Many of us multitask while eating. After all, eating takes little cognitive effort, so why not do something else at the same time? Did you know that making this type of multitasking a habit could be detrimental to your health? Your brain doesn’t always process just what and how much you’ve eaten. As a result, this makes it easy to not notice when you’re full and to overeat. I know I tend to eat while reading or watching and many kids do this, too.
This is the most important danger of multitasking. Multitasking takes attention away from the person you’re with. Such actions can be perceived as hurtful and rude, especially with our children and spouses. It also impairs actual communication. If you find yourself paying attention to other things while spending time with the people who are important to you, it’s a wise idea to try to limit such behavior, especially if you truly value your relationships.
How many times are we busy answering an email or text, or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while our children are trying to get our attention? One time, when my son was talking to me while I was trying to write an email, he said, “Never mind. You’re not really listening to me anyway.” I felt sooo bad! Has this happened to you?
These are a few of the ways in which multitasking can actually hurt you, along with making you feel stressed out. Keep them in mind the next time you’re tempted to try to do two things at once.