Multitasking and ADHD seem to go together, don’t they?
The ADHD brain jumps easily from one task to the next. In a flash, we’re off on to something different. No thought. No hesitation.
And it’s true – ADHD’s focusing challenges make us natural multitaskers. I’d even go so far as to say it’s in our DNA.
And while most ADHD adults even believe that multitasking boosts productivity. That jumping from one thing to another helps us get more done. I disagree. Multitasking is NOT ADHD’s friend. In reality, multitasking is a danger to ADHD productivity. Multitasking causes us more trouble than it’s worth.
Today, I encourage you to take a deeper look. To question if multitasking boosts ADHD productivity. Or if multitasking is a devilish drain on the energy, self-esteem, and time of ADHD adults. And what you’ll do about it.
What is Multitasking?
Multitasking is switching between two (or more) activities that take similar brain power.
We aren’t talking about having music on in the background or walking and talking (and chewing gum) at the same time. Background activities like that can actually help us focus and get more done.
True multitasking is doing more than one thing that needs similar thought power at a time. Think answering emails while talking on the phone. Or stopping to text while writing a blog (guilty here…my phone is now in airplane mode).
A fine example of the dangers of multitasking (ADHD or not) is texting while driving. Most of us know the dangers of texting and driving and the risk of crashing while doing so.
Why is Multitasking Easy for ADHD Brains?
I tricked you with that above question. Because while ADHD brains can jump from one task to another, it’s not easy or good for the ADHD brain.
Yes, we love novel experiences. That shiny object, new colors, different activities that trigger the dopamine release that helps us focus.
The synapses in our ADHD brains get fired up when we jump from one task to the next.
BUT every notice how you can’t stay focused? How you jump to a new task and then forget to go back to the old one to finish it? Or your brain gets tired faster? Or you need to keep jumping on the proverbial task pogo stick so you keep your brain hopping?
Let’s talk more about the dangers and lies, and how to stop the addictive behavior. And hopefully at the end of the blog, you’ll see that multitasking is NOT your friend.
The Lie of ADHD Multitasking
Many people with ADHD think multitasking is our friend. That our excitement seeking ADHD brains can manage working on more than one task at once.
Like we are master jugglers who can toss a fiery torch into the air with one hand and catch a slithery snake in another. All while balancing on a fitness ball.
The truth? We can’t. No one can. It doesn’t matter what brain type you have, multitasking is NOT efficient, healthy, wise, and safe.
Eventually we WILL drop either that flaming torch or mishandle the snake. Causing a fire, getting a snake bite, or falling off the ball and cracking our head open.
(Okay, so maybe the end results won’t be soooo dramatic for you, but they are definitely problematic.)
Why Multitasking is Dangerous for ADHD
Removing the above unrealistic physical dangers, why is multitasking a danger for ADHD? In truth, while we think we are being efficient and smart, we are really setting ourselves up for failure. Every single time.
The truth is, when we’re multitasking with ADHD:
We are less efficient. Multitasking is actually task switching. Your brain has to stop what it was doing and figure out the new thing you’ve asked it to do.
Multitasking wastes time. That switch may seem to take a split second, but those seconds add up. They use a lot of mental energy, too. Multitasking leaves you drained and unable to focus.
Multitasking with ADHD adds to our stress and overwhelm. How? It feeds our tendency to leave things unfinished. Starting and stopping to switch adds to clutter and out of control task lists. And that underlying beat of chaos that follows unmanaged ADHD around.
Multitasking on ADHD reduces our working memory. To remember stuff you have to pay attention to what you’re doing. When you’re doing more than one thing at once, are you really paying attention to either thing? Nope!
The bottom-line of ADHD and multitasking is it reduces our self-esteem. Builds negative feelings. Wastes time, causes us to forget. And leaves us stressed and overwhelmed.
The complete opposite of why you start multitasking to begin with. Because after all, don’t we multitask so we can feel good by getting things done in a timely manner?
So yes, even if you CAN juggle burning swords and poisonous snakes on a fitness ball, if it leaves you exhausted, overwhelmed, and without the applause from the audience, would you?
How to Stop Multitasking
I hope you are ready to STOP. That’s right. Just stop multitasking.
I bet you instantly said: ‘Yeah right. No way. Not gonna happen. Don’t want to. I can’t.’ Or some version of refusal to stop this activity that is truly hurting your efficiency and productivity.
As a lifelong multitasker, I totally understand the reluctance to stop. Multitasking is a powerful addiction and one that’s hard to give up.
So let’s talk about a process…an easing into the release…maybe even just a test to see what would happen if you did stop if you did react negatively.
And if you said: ‘YES! I’m in. Let’s get me focused, efficient and productive. I want to stop being so exhausted and overwhelmed,’ then good for you. Jump right into the stopping using the steps below
How to Stop Multitasking (or Identify How Multitasking Hurts vs Helps)
STEP 1: Accept the reality that you CANNOT multitask. Don’t justify that it can work for you. Ignore the voice that tells you it’s a good idea, that wants the dopamine hit and thinks it can handle it. (If this first step is challenging, then skip it and come back to it after you go through steps 2-5.)
STEP 2: Stop multitasking and pay attention to what happens. How much can you get done when you focus on one thing at a time? How does your brain and body feel at the end of the day?
STEP 3: Identify the culprits. What are you doing when you begin multitasking? Where do you get distracted to switch to something else?
STEP 4: Actively protect your time. Set aside time when you can dig into focused work. Turn off your phone, shut down the instant messages. Give yourself time without distractions to focus on one task at a time.
STEP 5: Create strong personal systems to handle your productivity. People need to have systems to conduct the tasks that you have – systems for answering email / texts, managing calendar, planning your day, etc.
Give the steps above a try for the next week and let me know what you learn.
The reality of ADHD is our busy brains are already multitasking. Zipping along at a zillion miles a minute. We don’t need any more distractions than what is already waiting for us. Believing that jumping from task to task is useful doesn’t help us live easier with ADHD!
And isn’t that the task we really want to succeed in?
Want to learn more about personal systems? Join the ADHD Success Club.