Our 21st century world demands a lot from us. We’re completing big projects, responding to emails, checking social media, raising children, caring for friends and family, and managing our own health. And we’re doing it all at once. At least, we’re trying to.

With so much going on, we resort to the age old trick: Multi-tasking. It’s the only way to get everything done, right?

Wrong.

In fact, multi-tasking is destroying your brain and moving you further away from – not towards – conquering your dreams.

Simply put, this is because multi-tasking strains our brain and drains our energy.

The secret is that your brain isn’t actually capable of doing two complex tasks at once. It can do two automatic tasks at the same time. This is why you can walk and talk, or eat and watch TV. But when you attempt to complete two complex tasks that demand conscious thought at once, you can’t do it. This is why talking on cell phones increases the occurrence of car accidents – because unexpected incidents on the road demand attention that distracted drivers aren’t able to give.

Instead of doing two things at once, what you are in fact doing is flitting very quickly between two simultaneous tasks. And this puts unnecessary strain on your brain and drains your energy.

Think of your smartphone. If you have one app open all day, your phone might last for twelve hours before the battery dies. If you have two apps open, it might last for ten hours. If you spend the day flitting between the two apps, your phone will be dead long before the day is through.

Your brain works the same way. Doing two (or three) things at once is counterproductive. You will achieve less, not more. And you’ll be exhausted by the end of it.

Instead, try this approach to making the most of your time:

  1. Spend some time planning your week. For every one minute you spend planning your activities, you gain ten minutes of productive time.
  2. Time block. Reserve chunks of time to dedicate to one project at a time.
  3. Time box. Spend short amounts of time doing multiple tasks back-to-back. This way you are still doing one thing at a time, but in more rapid succession than time blocking.

For more on effective time management, don’t miss these three vital tips.

Are you a proud multi-tasker? You may be one of the lucky few. Studies show 2.5% of people can effectively do two things at once. If not, what are your tips and tricks for getting more done in the time that you have?

The Everyday Habit That Is Killing Your Brain (and Your Dreams)