You might think that colleague who’s simultaneously chatting to a client while devouring a doughnut is a vision of productivity, but as many of us know, stretching our limited capacity over several tasks is not the best use of our faculties.
We at Collective Hub aren’t fans of multitasking (it’s a myth, by the way) and, as it happens, neither are our brains. And with good reason: switching between tasks takes a huge neurological toll on our concentration, creativity and ability to focus. But did you know it can also put a dent in your IQ?
One of the more telling studies that further illustrates the pitfalls of multitasking was performed in 2005 by psychiatrist Dr Glenn Wilson at King’s College London. Specifically focusing on the almighty productivity killer of an overflowing inbox, the results of 80 clinical trials performed found that participants who attempted to manage their email along with another task experienced a 10 point drop in their IQ – which, terrifyingly, is akin to going a whole night without sleep and is doubly worse than smoking marijuana (which lowers your IQ by four points).
“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” Glenn said of the results. “We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness.”
It’s not checking emails per se that has the negative effects – the most damaging behaviour was, in fact, a lack of structure to the handling of emails, Glenn explained. For example, just checking them as they pop up or stopping a task to write back to a previous email, and feeling a sense of urgency to reply. Funnily, near-instant replies are widely perceived as indicative of an employee’s work ethic, yet it’s almost the opposite: doing so damages their own productivity and increases neurological lethargy.
“Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working,” he urged.
Your first step? Releasing yourself of the burden of urgency when it comes to email. If it can’t wait, you’ll find out from a colleague soon enough. If it can, well, your IQ will be all the better for it.
Read More: Burnout Isn’t On You, It’s On Your Company