Multitasking Can Kill You. For Real.
During a recent doctor’s visit, I counted the times my doctor made eye contact with me.
Once upon entering the room, the second because I did not answer a question, he asked me so that he would look up from his tablet to make eye contact.
I have no idea what he was doing on his tablet… I realize that medical records are kept digitally and everyone is using them for charts and such, but the topic of our conversation was not “heavy” and from my vantage point it looked like he was checking his email or Facebook feed.
After he looked back down I asked, “Are you reviewing my chart?”
He jumped as though I’d just touched a cattle prod to his hand.
Caught with your hand in the cookie jar, doc… or should I say “former doc,” as I will never darken his doorstep again.
The reason I’m such a tyrant for eye contact when it comes to medical issues is that according to the Harvard Medical School’s journal, a patient nearly died recently and the cause was “a multitasking mishap.”
Here’s what Harvard reported: The man’s doctor instructed a resident to cancel an order for a large dose of blood thinners.
The resident started to cancel that, got a text in the middle of her task, responded to the text, and then forgot to complete canceling the order for that drug.
The man received high dosages of blood thinners over the course of several days.
His blood became so thin that it filled the “sack” around his heart – filling his heart cavity.
He needed open-heart surgery to release the pressure the thinned blood had created around his heart – otherwise, it would have killed him.
This is all because a resident couldn’t finish what she was working on and wait to send a text.
I want a doctor who pays attention when I’m in his care as much as my clients want a coach who pays attention during their sessions.
It’s what we deserve.
This is not the only way multitasking can kill you.
You’re killing yourself slowly if you’re a chronic multitasker.
There are many ways this terrible habit is making you slower, dumber, and is shortening your life span.
- Smaller brain
Multitasking literally shrinks your brain according to a recent study published in the National Institutes of Health Journal.
That study specifically found “smaller gray matter density” in people who multitask – and especially those who do so with multiple media sources.
Have you ever seen anyone sit in front of a TV while scrolling through their email or Facebook feed?
That’s what this is talking about.
People who perform multitasking activities specifically involving electronic media have slower cognitive processing speeds and show issues with emotional & social interaction.
There are many things we do regularly that lead to a decrease in our “gray matter” – it’s the topic of another blog we’ve published.
- Depression & Anxiety
The same study mentioned in our last point also found that multitasking increases the prevalence of depression and anxiety across the board.
When your brain is smaller and working at a slower speed, everything is more difficult – that difficulty helps to build anxiety.
The actual act of multitasking signals a part of your brain (the amygdala) to release stress hormones – those hormones should only be released at that volume if you actually need to fight or run away (fight or flight response).
When you have those hormones coursing through your brain at a high rate in times that are not true emergencies, they destroy brain cells.
This is an addiction, folks.
This also causes depression because the person with the lower brain density lacks the capacity to deal with emotional ups and downs.
- Poor memory
Working memory and long-term memory both suffer in test subjects who attempt multitasking over those who do not.
That means your recollection is poor in both short and long term memory.
Do you want to be able to remember people’s names? Things that have happened? The punch line to that joke you seem to always botch?
- Increased distractability
When I’m not feeling my best, it’s easier for me to be distracted.
When your brain is being misused (being treated as a computer instead of a human brain) it is not feeling its best and has the same response… it’s more easily distracted.
- Get hit by a car.
Not joking around on this one.
This point comes from a study of people who live and work in busy New York City and who were hit by a car while walking.
Out of the 1,400 people who were hit by cars, 20% of teenagers and 10% of adults reported it happened while they were focused on a mobile device.
I’m willing to bet that number is much higher and the others were just too embarrassed to admit it or simply refused to respond.
- Relationship sabotage
This one is fairly self-explanatory.
Let’s paint the picture: You’re sitting at the dinner table with a date who has his/her iPhone out and is scrolling a social networking feed. You’re speaking to this person and are only getting some faint “uh-huh” answers back.
How do you feel?
When we multitask in relationships it shows the other person that he or she is not important.
It shows them that there are many, many other things that come first.
Do you want positive relationships?
Practice mindfulness in your communication.
Don’t know how?
Get started with mindfulness with another one of our blogs on the topic.
Understanding that multitasking is not a natural function of our brains makes it easy to realize why trying to do it will hurt them.
It’s the same thing as trying to eat soup with a chainsaw… you’re not going to be successful and will end up either hurt or dead.
It’s a difficult habit to break, though.
People try and fail… because they haven’t figured out the right way to get started.
Check out GILD’s Freedom By Design program – it’s all about achieving more through healthy habits… and yes, one of the side effects is a BIGGER brain because we’re going to teach you how to stop trying to multitask.
Let us know your questions and comments by leaving them below or by joining our free online mastermind group hosted on Facebook.