Warning: Multitasking Is Killing Your Productivity

Warning Multitasking Is Killing Your Productivity

Take a moment and think about everything that you are doing right now. In addition to reading this article, the chances are good that you are also doing several other things. You might also be watching TV, checking your email, or talking on your phone.  If you are like most people, you think that you can save time by doing multiple things at once.

If so, you may be what researchers refer to as a “heavy multitasker.” Your are probably thinking, “I am pretty good at multitasking, and that it actually helps me to get more done.”

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you are wrong.

You’ve been led to believe that the key to getting things done is to become a master of multitasking. When in fact, just the opposite is true.

Before I explain the myths of multitasking, do yourself a favor and turn off all of your digital devices so that you can learn about the illusion of multitasking and what you can do about it.

The Multitasking Illusion

In the past, most people believed that multitasking was a good way to increase productivity. After all, if you’re working on several different tasks at once, you’re bound to accomplish more, right?

While most of us think that multitasking is performing two or more tasks simultaneously. Multitasking is really task-switching, or moving back and forth between two or more tasks.  This actually reduces productivity, because most of your attention is expended on the act of switching tasks, and you never really focus on either task.

“Most of the time multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking but in reality you’re actually wasting time switching from one task to another.” – Bosco Tjan

Unfortunately, multitasking does not save you time. In fact, research shows that it will take you longer to complete two tasks when multitasking than it would to complete each one separately. Experts estimate that multitasking can actually lead to a 40 percent reduction in your productivity.

Multitasking Is Killing Your Productivity

Not only has research shown that multitasking reduces your productivity, it has also be shown to be harmful to your health. Here are the results of just a few of the many research studies related to multitasking:

  • Studies have also found that multitasking has a negative physical effect by prompting the release of stress hormones and adrenaline.

  • Multitasking are that it is linked to short term memory loss,  and can change your ability to concentrate and  increase gaps in your attentiveness.

  • Researchers found that people who multitask while eating don’t mentally process what they have eaten causing the to eat larger meals more often leading to weight gain.

The Multitaking Solution

Now that you understand the negative impacts of multitasking, what can you do about it?

The primary skill that you need to develop to overcome multitasking is FOCUS.   Focus on one task at a time.  This means means doing something, and thinking about what you’re doing at the same time.  This means focusing on one task until it is completed or you are at a stopping point.

Three Ways To Improve Your Focus

  1. Have A System - Keep all of your projects, next actions, and appointments in one place so that you can keep track of everything in your personal and professional life and keep things from falling through the cracks.

  2. Plan Your Day - Plan your day the night before and be specific about what you want to accomplish.  Focus on your top three next actions, and knock them out early in the day before you get distracted by the other “stuff.”

  3. Schedule Your Email - Email is the number one distraction for most people. Turn off your email notifications, and schedule specific times during the day too check and respond to your email.

  4. Control Social Media - When you are tempted to check your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ ask yourself,  “Is this the best use of my time right now?”  If it is, great! If not, resist the temptation and move on to your next important task.

The next time you find yourself multitasking when you are trying to be productive, take a quick assessment of what you are trying to accomplish. Eliminate the distractions and focus on the most important task at that time.  This will make you happier, healthier and more productive.

Question: How can you minimize multitasking and to increase your productivity? Comment here.

photo credit: ryantron. via photopin cc

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  • gregpipkin

    Could not agree with you more, Steve. The evidence against multitasking is mounting by the day. Thanks for doing your part to dispel the myth!

    • http://stevespring.org sespring

      Thanks for your comment Greg. I agree, and think that if we all quit multitasking and focused on one task at a time we would get more done.

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    Great post and tips. I really try to focus only on the tasks that allow me to move closer toward my big goals. I’ve found planning my day and the tasks I’ll focus on so important.

    • http://stevespring.org sespring

      Thanks Dan. Focus really is the key to success. Knowing your goals and focusing on the tasks that move your goals toward completion is the key.

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

        Glad to share:)

  • Tanja Gardner

    Great post, Steve.

    My not-so-secret weapon against multitasking on my PC is Leechblock on Firefox and StayFocused on Chrome. I have them set to block email and social media between certain hours, and after a certain amount of time.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but it does help!

  • http://stevespring.org sespring

    Thanks Tanja! I will check out StayFocused and see how it works for me.

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