“Multitasking is a lie”
― Gary Keller
(Note: Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and literally lost my keys last week and cannot find them anywhere. So it goes.)
I spend a lot of time looking for my keys. A friend of mine even put up a hooks for my keys at each entry point of my house because he was tired of spending time helping me look for my keys. I am ashamed at how seldom I use the key hooks. The reason I forget where my keys are is not entirely a function of a bad memory (that I know of). It is that I am not paying attention when I put them down. When I come home from work, I drop my bags and keys where I stop and this is not the same spot everyday. Thus, the search for my keys becomes a regular struggle.
If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing I can’t form a memory of the event.
This is what happens when you’re scrolling through social media on your phone and your partner asks you something and later says “remember when I asked you about this?” and you really cannot remember. You did not form a memory. You were not paying attention to what the person was saying and so it was not absorbed into your brain.
Yes, people can struggle with short-term memory challenges but a lot of what I see happening is not memory problems as much as a lack of paying attention to your life. This can be because you are thinking of what you have to do next, you are watching television, you are reading, you are on the phone, or you are anxious about something and hanging out in What If Land. The truth is you were not paying attention to what was happening in the right now.
How to improve your memory (unless you legitimately have a brain injury or a neurological disorder; if so, contact a physician).
Do one thing at a time and take your time doing it.
Pause while doing the task and review what you are doing.
Limit unnecessary outside noise so your brain only has to process one thing at a time. This is why when we are driving and lost (or the weather is bad) we turn the radio down. It allows our brain to focus on the task at hand.
Do not agree to do things you do not have time to do.
Sometimes it helps to say what you’re doing out loud as you are doing the task. For example, when I leave the house I say, “Doors locked, dogs inside, gate up, alarm set, good to go.” This way if you are stressing about whether or not you did those things you will remember that you went through the task out loud. You will have formed a memory that you did this and will be less likely to stress all day about if you locked the door or not.
I know it’s a bummer that a vast majority of us cannot do two things at once and do them well. And, I know that some of you won’t believe me and will even pride yourself on your ability to multitask.
“Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” Travis Bradberry, Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
So, take your time getting things done and then come help me find my keys.