Today’s blog will cover these topics:
- Are we wired for multitasking?
- How does multitasking impact sports performance?
- Tactics for controlling broad and narrow focus while competing
Are we wired for multitasking?
Multitasking is defined as performing two or more tasks simultaneously, switching back and forth from one thing to another. It seems like a great way to get a lot done at once. There are those among us who believe they are expert multitaskers and extremely efficient. And, there are those who train on techniques to become better at multitasking. However, multitasking produces less efficiency in time management, overall performance, and even long-term health. Let’s debunk this myth of multitasking, There is mounting data exposing multitasking for what it truly is.
There has been enough research done to know that humans are bad at multitasking. Multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions than people who focus on one task at a time. Doing several different things at once can impair cognitive ability. The human brain is not wired for high cognitive multitasking. Doing so can quickly lead to cognitive overload and will result in inefficiencies. When our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks, we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.
The time it takes to complete two tasks simultaneously will always exceed the time it takes to complete two tasks in sequence. Studies suggest that multitasking will add approximately 40% more time to task completion. That’s a big number. Also, jumping from subject to subject causes a loss of deep focus. Heavy multitaskers are worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details. Multitasking also causes one to continually reorient into the subject matter. Another pitfall is that trying to do too much at once makes it harder to be mindful and truly present at the moment. Mindfulness comes with a plethora of benefits for our minds and our bodies. Many studies also show that multitasking can lower our IQ up to 15 points – another significant number. And lastly, when multitasking our bodies produce more cortisol which can create long-term health concerns down the road. This time waste, the error rate, and the mind/body impairment should be good reasons to question why anyone would attempt multitasking. Humans are wired to be monotaskers, meaning our brains can only focus on one task at a time.
Now that you understand the potential detrimental impact of multitasking, you can put this knowledge to work to increase your productivity and efficiency. One tip to break the multitasking habit is the simple hack of time blocking. Prioritize schedules and allow time blocks for each task. For large extended tasks, time-chunk them. Set uninterrupted time blocks along your calendar devoted to this task.
Opting to focus on one task at a time can benefit many aspects of our life. Let’s move into the sports arena and see how this knowledge can help us perform better.
How does multitasking impact sports performance?
For one to reach an optimal level in any sport, consider a few ideas about multitasking and focus. Focus can be external, internal, broad, or narrow. Many sports require multiple skills and techniques to be used simultaneously. Players must synchronize timing, tactics, and position. The opportunity to multitask exists in any sport.
Are you multitasking or monotasking in your sport? Is your focus broad or narrow? What can disrupt your focus? The tips below relate to tennis, but you can easily translate these into your sport.
- External FOCUS interrupter. During play or between points, the player allows his/her eyes to wander out of the field of play. Looking at the next court or the spectators will cause a loss of focus.
Focus tip: Where your eyes go, your mind follows. Keep your eyes on your court, even between points. Keeping your field of vision under control will prevent a wandering, multitasking mind.
- Internal FOCUS interrupter. Losing a point in a game or making an unforced error can cause a player’s focus to blur.
Focus Tip: Try using one-word cues that will eliminate the self-talk. Use the word “reset” after a loss of point or error. This simple one-word cue will bring your attention back and allow you to focus on the next point, the next game. The cue will remind you that you can’t change what happened, so don’t dwell on it. And, it will remind you to shut down any negative thoughts and monkey chatter, both of which are multitasking.
Tennis, like any sport, necessitates the ebb and flow between broad focus and narrow focus.
- Broad focus is a form of multitasking, which is taking in multiple things at the same time. It requires the player to receive several stimuli at once.
- Narrow focus is an inward pull of control to a single stimulus being received. Having a narrow focus is monotasking.
Tactics for controlling broad and narrow focus points (examples from the tennis court).
- Your opponent is picking up the ball and walking toward the baseline to serve. This is the time when you relax your vision and open up to a broad focus. As the opponent begins bouncing the ball in preparation for the service, shift your attention to a narrow focus and zoom in on the ball. As the hand goes up to toss the ball, all attention is now on the ball up to the point where the ball makes contact with the racquet. This intense, narrow focus will help you pick up the served ball sooner and allow a quicker and more accurate reaction on your return. Zooming in to one narrow point allows the brain to focus on one thing, which translates to better performance.
- Your opponent hit a shot, and you are preparing to return. Your focus should be very tight on the ball coming toward you. Your head and eyes track the ball all the way to impact – a very narrow focus. Keeping the head and eyes down and the head still through the swing, make contact. After you finish your swing and complete the follow-through, then let go of that narrow focus and shift back out onto the court with a broader focus. The broad focus allows sight of the opponent’s body position that will help anticipate the location of the opponent’s shot. As the ball comes back over the net, the process of narrowing starts again and remains until impact. Avoid the multitasking temptation of trying to watch the ball and the opponent’s movement. The opponent’s movement does not matter, rather the focus on the incoming ball matters. This focus allows the player to decide his short. By narrowing the field of vision, you can make a higher-quality shot.
These illustrations show how our vision and our mind can converge on one focal point or diverge out over a broader field. Become aware of your focus tendencies and actively practice these techniques. Cultivate these into habits. Doing so will increase your comfort level in competition, which in turn increases your level of performance.
While working with players as a life coach I bring simple, tried-and-tested techniques to light. These are not theories, rather proven methods. My recommendations are straightforward, and they work. My approach and advice will allow a player to cultivate his/her development. If you need help, seek out an expert to teach you. They can accelerate your learning curve.
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It is my greatest hope that you will implement some tips from our Bio-Cultivating and Neural-Cultivating blogs. Further, it is my hope you will be inspired to pass these learnings along to family and friends. We all have people in our lives who have the desire but lack the accurate information to improve their health. It is frustrating to sift through the bombardment of data and the misinformation in today’s world. It’s no wonder some give up in frustration. I believe that we deserve the healthiest choices that honest modern science can offer. It is my mission to help as many of us as possible get and stay healthy.
As a tennis coach myself, I found the compression industry to be unacceptable for our needs. I set out on a journey to help you and your students. I know we all get beat up. The harder we compete, the more we get injured. All compression is not created equal! At Body Helix, we start with an unapologetic obsession for exceptional quality. Our design philosophy is to create modern, innovative gear that surpasses that which is offered in the global marketplace. As a privately held, Veteran-owned, North Carolina company we challenge global leaders to elevate their compression game or step aside. It’s compression gear, designed by tennis players, for tennis players.
Be well and stay focused on cultivating your health, your mind, and your solitude. If I can help you further never hesitate to reach out to me.
Move Through It.