Day 19 - Multi-Tasking

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Robin Boudette, Ph.D.

Robin is a psychologist in Counseling and Psychological Services at Princeton University, and has worked 14 years with students. She is the former Director of the University Medical Center at Princeton Eating Disorders Program, and founder of the Mind-Body Health Services Team. 

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We’re a society of proud multi-taskers. For more than a couple of decades, it’s been a business badge of honor to be able to juggle a bunch of different tasks and projects at once. Problem is, research has determined that what feels like progress forward, is actually taking us a step or two, back. 

The brain simply cannot multi-task. So everything that we think we’re managing concurrently, is actual standing in line, in a serial process. Neuroscience also tells us that there is a severe switching-cost to multi-tasking. This is caused in part by mental blindness, and it actually destroys 30% to 50% of our productivity. It turns out that paying close attention to one task at a time - single-tasking - is a much more effective, more productive way to work.   


It’s hard to break the multi-tasking habit, especially in a world that rewards task-switching with little shots of dopamine. But it’s important to break the cycle - and retraining the brain to direct and sustain attention through mindfulness is a really effective way to get there.

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