First Published by Roger Knick, The Golf Performance Center
Multitasking is a lie! Anyone that tells you they are good at multitasking doesn’t understand what that really means. In other words, multitasking is superhuman, superman or superwoman! Unfortunately, we make ourselves believe that multitasking is a good thing and we are good at it, when in fact it is scientifically not possible and humans suck at it.
What does this have to do with golf you ask? Since golf is such an easy sport there is a common belief that you can do multiple things during practicing or playing while being your most productive selves. Neuroscience is saying otherwise, and we still refuse to believe it. You as a competitive golfer want to achieve the highest state of “flow” while playing but in order to get there your brain must have full control to operate. How do you allow the brain to have full control? One way would be to practice mindfulness. This allows the brain to strengthen its ability to better deal with internal and external distractions or conflicts. As with any other muscle in your body the brain has the capacity to adapt to exercise like mindfulness; this is called neuroplasticity. As the brain becomes stronger it will have a greater ability to increase focus in the prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex allowing for greater processing speed and power, enabling you to maintain attention on a task in front of you.
The multitasking lie? Our brains are not capable of multitasking, you can think of or do different things simultaneously but not at same time. Our brains will work in the prefrontal cortex (pfc) quickly switching back and forth on tasks, but never on two tasks at the same time. This is why when you learn something new, like how to have a better golf swing, new putting technique or a foreign language, it is best to start small and to work in short intense bursts that expand as you have mastered the primary fundamentals.
Here is a good poor example of why multitasking doesn’t work for the golfer. Say you are out on the 18th hole, you have a good round going but you are not sure why it “happened” today, You know you have a good round going and know water is on the left of fairway, you stand on the tee now fully aware that your best score ever is in your grasp, just 410 yards away! As you go through your routine you begin thinking about the handshakes of congratulations on such a great round. Then you think about the water on the left, you worry about hitting it left since it is your typical miss. You tell yourself not to hit it left, you tell yourself just hit it right, but don’t hit it left! Well, guess what just happened! You hit it left into hazard and all the congratulations are gone, best round gone! You hit your next tee shot right down the middle! Of course! What just happened? You were trying to multitask. You gave your brain the task to not to hit it left, and to hit it right but not left, which left your brain confused on what to do. There was the conscience effort to avoid it but your brain could only think left because that was the higher priority signal which is typically the last. It was confused as to what to do, therefore it did what it was wired to do, last input in, first output! Great score gone, disappointment, again!
How can you avoid this type of episode more often? Use your mindfulness techniques! Learn to quiet the brain, let it work at its highest capacity and you will find flow and your lowest scores! For you to play and be at your best, learning mindfulness and understanding you are not superhuman when it comes to doing multiple things at a time (turn the music off when learning something new or wanting to have deep practice) will help you find complete focus and heightened attention to enter flow more often bringing greater results!
Enjoy Your Journey!