That multitasking is literally draining energy from your brain

Taking breaks will refresh the brain and help prevent an afternoon slump at work.
Taking breaks will refresh the brain and help prevent an afternoon slump at work. TNS

That slacker who gets up and takes a leisurely stroll around the office every couple of hours might actually be more productive than you if you’re not doing it, too.

And that multitasking you’re doing to get so much done “at the same time” is actually making you more tired, and in the long run less productive, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University tells the digital news site Quartz.

You’re not actually doing more than one activity at once when you multitask, you’re just switching between them. “And this switching is exhausting,” says Quartz’s Olivia Goldhill. “It uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, running down the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task.”

She quotes Daniel Levin, the McGill professor, on the behavioral process: “That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing. People eat more, they take more caffeine. Often what you really need in that moment isn’t caffeine, but just a break. If you aren’t taking regular breaks every couple of hours, your brain won’t benefit from that extra cup of coffee.”

Of course, if you’re a multitasker, you’re probably going to find a way to make that break one of multiple tasks, and that will just defeat the purpose. So be a slacker with intention. It could ironically make you more productive.

There are even apps to remind you to take a minute. The boss will appreciate it in the end, maybe.

Tom Uhler: 817-390-7832, @tomuh


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