Keep your brain in one room.

This Is Your Brain On Multitasking (and What You Can Do About It)

The secret to getting things done lies in treating your brain like a house

Think about what a regular day looks like for you and how many things are constantly fighting for your attention. Whether it’s your phone, your family, the current news, social media, your co-workers, or another Zoom meeting, the battle for your attention is genuine and never-ending.

Often, it might feel like the best answer is to do as many things at once as you can: make breakfast while watching the news and talking to your kids about what is happening at school, all while you are mentally planning your day. But none of this even remotely resembles focus. Because it is not.

You are multitasking.


When you flip back and forth between two (or more) activities handled by two different regions of your brain, you are multitasking.

Think of a time when you were reading something on your computer, and someone called you on the phone. You started listening and responding, but you also kept reading.

After a few minutes, you realized you had no idea of what was being said or what you were reading. You were jumping between two different mental activities and, let’s be honest, failing badly at both. You were deeply entrenched in multitasking.

Why is multitasking so bad?

For a moment, imagine your brain is a house, and each room represents a different region of your brain. You can read only when you are in the living room, and you can speak and listen only when you are in the bedroom. You can’t read in the bedroom, and you can’t talk or hear in the living room. (You definitely can’t do both in the kitchen!)

Each time you want to do a task, you have to move to the correct room. Each time you change rooms, you use up a little energy, and it takes a little time. As you shift back and forth between the rooms, you use up more and more energy.

Shuffling back and forth between the rooms starts to take more and more time as you have to stop to remember what you were doing. This is what happens to your brain when you multitask.

You drain your mental energy, and you eliminate your ability to focus.

The most efficient way to get things done is to keep your brain working in one room at a time.

Whether you set a timer and work for 20 minutes on one task, or you make all your phone calls in one batch of time, do one type of thing at a time at a time.

When you stay in one room, there’s no pausing to readjust and remember what you were doing. There’s no energy drain as you shift back and forth. You don’t have to keep track of several things. Your attention and focus are committed to one thing. When you complete your one task, you can freely move to another room and focus on doing a new task.

Without multitasking, you can become single-minded in your focus, which means time feels more expansive, and you accomplish more.

As you build focus sessions into your day, think of how you can eliminate all types of multitasking and keep your brain in one room at a time as much as possible. You’ll get more done, and your brain will thank you.

Productivity Consultant, TEDx Speaker, Podcast Co-host, Author of DONE: How To Work When No One Is Watching. Learn more at Ellen@EllenGoodwin.com

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