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Most of us are under the impression that multitasking is an important skill to have if you want to be successful. That if you want to get promoted or run a successful business, you need to be able to juggle several tasks at once and fit a crazy amount of work into one day. There’s a different school of thought though that says that multitasking won’t make you more productive. Some people believe that multitasking is actually inefficient and can even hurt your brain!
I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask. I thought I was superwoman for juggling ten different tasks at once. When I worked in an office, I would happily generate a file, write an email, and chat to a colleague all at the same time. But then I got burnt out and resentful that I had to cram so much into my day.
I’ve realized that this was unproductive. And sometimes it wasn’t even really multitasking. It was task switching. I’m now aware that there are many negative effects of multitasking such as causing you to lose time, become distracted, and make mistakes.
Multitasking makes you lose time
When we say multitasking, a lot of the time we really mean task switching.
Multitasking means doing multiple tasks at the same time. Like texting while you’re watching TV or talking on the phone while driving.
Task switching is when you quickly move from one task to another without necessarily finishing any of them. And therein lies the problem. We’re not finishing a lot of the tasks, so that means that we’re going to have to go back to them later on.
Multitasking is an inefficient use of time because you lose time when you switch from one task to another. You waste time trying to find your place again and pick up where you left off. Sometimes you repeat steps you’ve already done or miss things that you thought you had already done.
Focusing on one task until it’s finished will save you time in the long run.
Related Content: How to Identify and Fix Your Productivity Leaks
Multitasking distracts you
When you switch from one task to another without completing them, you don’t automatically stop thinking about the previous task. It’s still in the back of your mind because you know you need to go back and finish it. You’re still thinking about what’s left to do, so your current task isn’t getting your full attention.
If you’re multitasking all day long, you’re probably thinking about more than just the last task as well. How can you expect to do an excellent job on your most important tasks if you’re also thinking about five other tasks you need to get back to?
Even just glancing at your notifications is not good. Knowing that you have an unread email distracts you and makes you start thinking about what the email could be about.
Focusing on one task will allow you to put all your energy and brainpower into your most important task.
Multitasking causes mistakes
When your mind is not focused on the task at hand, you are more likely to make a mistake. Mistakes can be time-consuming and costly to fix. They might also be remembered when it comes to promotion time or attracting repeat clients.
Focusing on one task will reduce the number of mistakes you make and keep your boss or clients happy.
Multitasking hurts your brain
Our brains were not made for multitasking; they can only focus on one thing at a time. Switching back and forth between tasks leads to lower performance because our brains can’t successfully do two things at the same time.
There have been many scientific studies that have concluded that multitasking isn’t good for you.
Stanford University professor Clifford Nass found that heavy multitaskers were actually worse at multitasking than light multitaskers. They struggled to filter information and ignore irrelevant information, and they had poor memory management.
Possibly even more worrying is a study carried out by the University of London that found that multitasking lowers your IQ and has the same effects as if you smoked marijuana or missed a night’s sleep!
I know how awful I feel when I miss a night’s sleep, so I’d rather not replicate that feeling by multitasking! My memory is bad enough as it is!
One of my goals is to become more productive, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the first step I need to take is to stop multitasking. Even while writing this post, I found myself reaching for my phone to check my messages more times than I could count. Then I had to find my place again and remember what I was trying to say.
From now on, I will try to focus on completing one task at a time and giving that task my full attention so that I can do it to the best of my ability. I believe that focusing on one task at a time will allow me to do better quality work in less time.
In fact, I think it’s going to make me a happier person. I think it will make me less tired, less resentful, and more alert. Doesn’t that sound good?! Who’s with me?
If you want to make a start on becoming more productive, check out my productivity board on Pinterest!
Are you a big multitasker? Do you think it makes you more productive? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
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- How to Identify and Make the Most of Your Peak Productivity Hours
- How to Achieve the Perfect Work-Life Balance When You Work from Home
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