“Squirrel!” The Distraction of Multitasking
Did you see the cartoon feature film, “Up!”? The dogs in it are able to talk as a result of a special collar that translates their thoughts into words. But the dogs get distracted very easily, especially by squirrels. Every time they think they see one, they say, “Squirrel!” and stop what they’re doing to verify whether one is present or not.
For us, multitasking is something similar. We think that it’s efficient, and we get more done, but really, it’s just satisfying our longing for something new. Our brains get a jolt of pleasure when we are able to switch from what we were doing to check email, read a text or answer a call.
We’re sidetracked from what our original task, and we leave it for a while. After we’ve dealt with the distraction, we return to the task. But it takes precious time and energy to get refocused. Efficiency, creativity, productivity and performance all suffer. Also, it’s exhausting and we can’t think as clearly when multitask.
So the next time you’re tempted to check your email when you’re in the middle of a project, remind yourself that it’s a “squirrel,” and stay focused. Your brain will thank you.
~ Linda-Ann Stewart