Can you train to multi-task?

Multi-tasking is something that is difficult to accomplish - unless you train for it - and then it can become a significantly valuable tool. Imagine all the work that you could get done during zoom meetings if you could sort of pay attention to what's being said online while you go about doing something else. For most of our lives (well, for those of us that grew up pre-cell phones and social media), we have been taught to focus on one thing and one thing only. Constant interruptions from emails, texts and phone calls make it difficult to keep a train of thought. While one strategy would be to put the phone away and concentrate on what we're doing, it could also be useful to train ourselves to do multiple simultaneous tasks.

You can improve your ability to multitask through training and practice, but there are some important caveats to consider:

Task Similarity: Training to multitask is most effective when the tasks you're trying to combine are similar in nature. For example, if you're trying to juggle two different cognitive tasks, practicing with similar tasks can help. If you're trying to multitask with physical activities, training in activities that have common elements can be useful.

Practice: Just like with any skill, practice is key. The more you practice multitasking, the better you become at it. Over time, your brain becomes more efficient at switching between tasks and allocating attention appropriately.

Task Management: Learn to manage your tasks effectively. Use tools like to-do lists, calendars, and task prioritization to help you stay organized. Effective task management can make multitasking less overwhelming.

Focus and Mindfulness: While multitasking is useful in some situations, it's important to remember that it can reduce the quality of your work on each individual task. Practicing mindfulness and focusing on one task at a time when it's critical can help you maintain quality and avoid errors.

Reduce Distractions: Minimize external distractions as much as possible when you need to multitask. This allows you to allocate your attention more effectively to the tasks at hand.

Know Your Limits: Understand that there are limits to how much you can effectively multitask. Some tasks are not meant to be combined, and attempting to do so can lead to decreased performance. Recognize when it's more efficient to focus on one task at a time.

Practice Task Switching: Multitasking often involves switching between tasks rapidly. Practice task-switching exercises to improve your ability to transition smoothly from one task to another.

Stress Management: Stress can impair your ability to multitask effectively. Engage in stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, exercise, or deep breathing to improve your multitasking skills under pressure.

It's important to note that multitasking is not always the most efficient or effective way to work. In some cases, single-tasking (focusing on one task at a time) can lead to better results and less mental fatigue. The ability to choose when to multitask and when to single-task is a valuable skill in itself.

Additionally, some research suggests that heavy multitasking may have negative effects on cognitive performance, as it can lead to reduced attention span, increased stress, and decreased overall productivity. Therefore, it's important to strike a balance between multitasking and single-tasking based on the specific demands of your work or activities.

Using the Brain Gauge to train for multi-tasking: The Brain Gauge exercise platform is well designed to train for multi-tasking. Personally, I often use the platform while at online meetings and/or while watching videos. At first, the level that you are successful at will vary with how much information you are obtaining from the "distraction" (e.g. a meeting or video). After you have trained at this awhile, you begin to find that you can master higher and higher levels with less and less focus on the testing task. The multi-tasking training translates to other activities and makes task switching much easier.

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