In today’s super busy world, people are always multitasking: driving and texting, working on a project and watching a video at the same time, replying to emails while attending a meeting, etc. . Some employers even encourage workers to multitask in the belief that this will make them more productive. We often carry out various tasks in our daily life. But is multitasking good when you’re facing a survival situation?
There is a lot of research showing that multitasking can have some downsides.
Studies show that when our brain is constantly “shifting gears” to switch between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention – we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.
Sometimes our own brains can work against us in a crisis. We need to be aware of ways to train our mental faculties to handle emergencies.
After you honestly assess your situation and determine what you should do, you act and assert direct control over your environment with the intention of improving your situation. At this stage, you start acting on your decision depending on what your greatest need is right now, whether it’s collecting water, building a shelter, or anything else.
There is a saying that goes something like this: “Whatever you are doing, that is what you are doing”. People often end up getting easily distracted when performing a task. During a survival situation in the jungle, for example, it is common that during the activity of collecting wood for the construction of a shelter, people lose focus and assemble bundles of firewood that will not be used in the structuring of the shelter.
Now you must be thinking that she is just getting ahead of a job that they would have to do later, however, at the same time they are delaying the task that should be the priority. Compared to a focused person it is very likely that he will not even get more firewood and will certainly not finish his shelter first, after all, he is dividing his attention into two different work fronts. Hence the importance of this phrase: “Whatever you are doing, this is what you are doing.” It has the simplest possible meaning, be a focused person.
Focusing on one task at a time saves energy and also makes you more efficient. While there are numerous studies on the notion of multitasking, many people still believe that it is not only possible but an effective and efficient way of working. On the contrary, studies show that the official term for multitasking is actually called task switching.
Task Switching is quickly switching from one task to another without completing any of them. As tasks often require different actions and cognitive processes to complete, different parts of the mind are activated. As the mind determines what needs to be done and how best to do it, time is lost. Often, because we are living the experience, we do not register the delay or loss of time.
It has been reported that it can take up to 5 minutes to get back to the level of productivity and functionality you were at when returning to a task after an interruption or task change. In a survival situation where time is of the essence, this is an important issue. Studies have also shown that trying to multitask can increase cortisol levels, causing additional emotional and mental stress and strain.
This is not good in a survival scenario and will only serve to further deplete your neurological resources. That’s why it’s so important to focus on a defined task through to completion, only switch roles if you really have to.
With all that said, it’s important to recognize that nothing in survival is perfect. There are times when task switching may be necessary, or there will be times when you will have to pay attention to more than one thing at a time, but you need to understand the cost of doing so.
Regarding the original question, “Is it better to multitask or focus on one thing in a survival situation?” the answer would have to be: “It depends on the situation”. There is some evidence that multitasking can make you less effective and more prone to making mistakes.
Focus on one task at a time, give it your full attention, and move on to the next one when you’re done. However, if a situation arises where you have to multi-task, then you need to recognize that it can hamper your efficiency at work.