When Is Multitasking Harmful?

When you’re in college, you’re often juggling many different responsibilities: school, work, chores, studying, and social life. It would make sense then, that you would try to combine some of these to make them simpler, less time consuming, or more fun. Making dinner with friends is a great way to eat better, relax, and include the people you care about in your busy life. Oftentimes multitasking doesn’t actually accomplish more than one task, though - it prevents you from doing any of those tasks well or to completion. Here are some ways that people sabotage their efforts with multitasking: 


Multitasking in class - Chances are, if your professor has regular lectures, he thinks the information he’s imparting to the class is valuable. It also may appear later in assessments like tests and papers. If you spend your class time goofing off on your laptop, studying for other classes, or figuring out your social life, you are shortchanging yourself. Focus in class and get every cent you’ll pay in tuition out of the experience. If you don’t think you are learning anything in your classes, take extra care the next time you select and register. Class learning is important, so make sure you’re choosing your classes wisely and then giving them the attention they deserve.

Multitasking at work - Doing multiple things at your job, such as working and studying or working and texting, is a really good way to get yelled at or fired. Being fired is bad for your finances and your resume. If you’re being paid to do a task, you need to focus on that task. In some jobs, losing that focus can lead to costly mistakes, customer alienation, or even accidents. Conversely, you may find opportunities for better paid or more interesting work if you prove yourself responsible in small tasks. Most people don’t think about it, but college isn’t just for learning, it’s for making useful contacts and connections. Use your time at work wisely.

Multitasking while studying - The vast majority of students will attempt to socialize while they study so they can more spend time with people they like. They think of it as a way to make doing something dull more interesting. In reality, studying and socializing go together very poorly. Most of the time, you’ll wind up socializing more than you will studying, and then you’ll have to go back and cram in the studying in the time you have remaining. It’s much better to get your studying done and then spend the time you have left doing something you enjoy without any distraction over overhanging stress. 

Another great tool for procrastination is social media. It’s so easy to lose yourself and the time you have to Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. These are sites that are designed to pull you in and lose yourself. If you have a hard time staying off the internet, social media, or your phone, make a point to study away from any of your devices. Again, college courses are expensive. Don’t waste your money tweeting instead of reading, writing, or studying. There will be plenty of time to tweet or post later on. 

Studies have shown that the human brain cannot perform two tasks that require higher brain functioning at once. One or both of the tasks will suffer if you try it, and you may wind up feeling more stressed when you have to do one or both of them again. It’s better to concentrate on important tasks, even if they are dull, for the amount of time it takes to complete them, then move on to the next one. With good time management skills, many things that take hours to do while “multitasking” can be completed in a much shorter amount of time. If you’d like help in how to study better, Grand Valley has a number of resources available to help students. Check them out when you have your next free moment.


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