I know, I know, you've heard this thousands of times before!

But apparently you didn't "get it" as it would be impossible for a rational person to continue to experience such high net negative costs...

One would have to have the wisdom of a fool to continue incurring this cost. 

It's a powerful and diabolical illusion, perhaps akin to the one where we think we can cut short an hour of sleep and not actually end up producing less but with more hours!


It's a downward, reinforcing negative spiral:

Increases anxiety levels from several different sources
Reduces our efficiency.
Reduces our judgment.
Reduces our impulse control, which compounds into more multi-tasking...
Fouls up our memory
More cognitive costs than smoking pot
Ruins our productivity and peace of mind and ability to concentrate makes us even more anxious!


The quotes below are from the excellent (but thick, so read/scan instead of going slow) book The Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin. 

"But there's a fly in the ointment.  Although we think we're doing several things at once, multitasking, this have been shown to be a powerful and diabolical illusion.  Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, say that our brains are 'not wired to multitask well....  When people think they're multitasking, they're actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly.  And every time they do, there's' a cognitive cost in doing so.'

So, we're not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler:  we're more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute.

Even though we think we're getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.

Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking

Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.  To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new - the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens.  The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: The very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted.  We answer the phone, look up something on the Internet, check our e-mail, send an SMS, and each of there things tweaks that novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centers of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task.  It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain,candy.  Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugarcoated tasks."

We become closer and closer to becoming blithering idiots.  And to add insult to damage, multitasking costs us more cognitive loss and memory power impairment than  than smoking pot!!  It even disorganizes our thinking such that the brain puts the information in the wrong place in the brain!!!!

"Then there are the metabolic costs of switching itself that I wrote about earlier.  Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task.  The kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time.  We've literally depleted the nutrients in our brain.  This leads to compromises in both cognitive and physical performance.  Among other things, repeated task switching leads to anxiety, which raises the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which in turn can lead to aggressive and impulsive  behaviors.  By contrast, staying on task is controlled by the anterior cingulate and the striatum, and once we engage the central executive  mode, staying in that state uses less energy than multitasking can actually reduces the brain's need for glucose

To make matters worse, lots of multitasking requires decision-making.  Do I answer this text message or ignore it?  How do I respond to this?  How do I file this email?  Do I continue what I'm working on now or take a break?  It turn out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural  resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones.  One of the first things we lose is impulse control.  This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.  Why would anyone want to add to their daily weight of information processing by trying to multitask?"


And, the good news is...well, there isn't any.  It's better to just slow down and calmly just look around and relax than try to fill the time with the "shiny objects" or the "false efficiencies" of the time fool. 

The dopamine-addiction feedback loop rewards the brain for  losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.  "To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new - the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens".

The irony is that if want to be more productive by focusing regardless of what is going


What can you do that involves doing more things than one at a time?

You can do that which is automatic and requires no effort in decision-making:

Talk while driving.
Stand in line reading a book (or reading while at a moderate pace on a treadmill).


What can you do that will make you healthier?  Of course, do the opposite of multi-tasking:

Specify (and set an alarm, so that you don't have to decide or have your primitive brain occupied with trying to remember) only two to three times a day for looking at email - and turn off any sounds that indicate incoming mail swooshing in.  

Group miscellaneous short tasks together in a specified time block for "little stuff", doing them in the order in which they are on the list.

Have a time-blocked day for at least several blocks where there is nothing that will interrupt you short of the house burning down! 

Never accept interruptions, except for true emergencies!  Just say "sorry, I've got to finish this quickly, when can I get back to you...".

And turn off your phone during your productivity blocks and during most of the day.  (Some people wait to be stimulated by "oh, I got a call, oh, boy!" as if it is another shiny object....)

Never listen to disharmonious or loud music - it kills the brain, the body, and productivity.


See, below in the sidebar, the discussion.


Stop Doing These Energy Reducers, In Order To Have More Energy! 

Live Life In Straight Lines, Not The Zig Zaggy Life To Nowhere

Calm Coherence - The Ability To See And Think Clearly

The Certainty Generators - Eliminating Uncertainty, Dramatically Reducing Anxiety - Reducing uncertainty reduces distractions and interferences caused by being "concerned with" uncertainties.


Having the washing machine going at the same time as you are preparing a meal (or any other task that is interruptable without costing you) is a productive thing to do.

Other ones are:

Walking on the treadmill while reading (and perhaps also listening to harmonious, non-distracting music).

Cooking several things at once. 

Having others do assigned tasks where you can go do something else for awhile and then return quickly as needed to make sure the other person(s) is doing the assigned task.