Pigeons Are Masters of Multitasking, but We Are Not

No one would ever accuse pigeons of being on par with humans, especially with regards to intelligence. But weirdly enough, there's one area in which we're on equal footing. Despite having brains massively smaller and less complex than ours, pigeons can switch between tasks about as quickly as humans can. In some instances, they even outpace us.

Scientists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany analyzed how fast pigeons and people respond while performing the same task. It turns out that the distance between neurons in a pigeon's brain is half that of a human's, which compensates for its low complexity. When asked to stop one task and begin another, pigeons occasionally outperform humans.

You know that feeling from work and from life — constant interruptions, whether it's from notification alerts or a colleague stopping by your desk or even your own realization that you should attend to something in the middle of something else. While being good a multitasker can be a point of pride, 98 percent of us are actually terrible at it. We need time to recover and refocus after interruptions, and even the smallest distraction can mean losing 23 minutes getting back on task.

The best way to stay productive is single-tasking. Remember flow states and being in the zone? Getting rid of distractions and setting boundaries around your time and space is your best ally for doing your best work. This doesn't mean working around the clock. Breaks are important — so schedule them. Giving yourself limits around tasks is one of the easiest productivity tools around. You may find that you're happier with your work and yourself, which is as good a reason as any to leave multitasking to the birds.