Do you think you’re good at multitasking? You’re wrong — according to lots of experts and research.
You may be addicted to multitasking, since it feels like you are making progress on your massive to-do list. There’s an adrenaline rush to keeping all those plates spinning.
What’s wrong with multitasking
A decade ago, as I was coming off a season of extreme stress and infinite emails and expectations, I read The Myth of Multitasking: How Doing It All Gets Nothing Done. That news was a revelation. More recently, this Harvard Business Review article, provided some compelling reasons why you need to stop trying to do more than one thing at a time:
- You’re actually much less productive and losing time switching back and forth from one task to the other. Productivity goes down by as much as 40% when you’re multitasking.
- It’s dangerous. Using a cell phone while driving is just one example. That multitasking practice killed more than 3,000 people in 2017.
- You make more errors — from email typos to posting to the wrong Instagram account. One study found that being distracted by emails and phone calls brings down your IQ by ten points — more than smoking marijuana.
- It’s rude and hurts your relationships. Giving your full attention to the person you’re talking to, the meeting you’re attending and the project you’re working on will pay off.
Is multitasking always a failure? Of course not, you can feel free to watch TV while you fold clothes!
How to stop multitasking and still get work done
Even if you’re convinced that multitasking is not the answer, the reality is you have a lot of responsibilities that demand your time. How can you possibly manage everything by single-tasking? Here are a few tips to get your started:
Prioritize what’s important over what’s urgent
You have to respond to those emails but block out time for what really matters first. What’s important to you will vary depending on your goals — it may mean completing a report only you can write or finally planning a vacation to relax. Whether it’s an important deadline or important personal time, those emails can probably wait.
When you do complex tasks can make a huge difference is how well you do them. Are you more productive at a particular time of day, during a certain season or in a specific work environment? Recognize when you have your personal peaks and slumps and use them to your advantage.
Turn off notifications
Those little pings and pops can make you feel important and on top of things. But they also distract you and detail your train of thought. Consider turning them off while you focus on a hard task. You might learn to live without them all the time.
Focus, then break
Set a timer for 45-50 minutes to focus on one task. That’s about how long most of us can be effective and efficient. Then take a real break, preferably by moving around, before you go back to another task.
Create space for thinking
My favorite billionaire, Warren Buffet, says, “Busy is the new stupid.” A person who can buy anything and everything knows he can’t buy more time, so he protects it as his most precious resource. We’re all rich with the same 24/7.
What tips do you have for breaking the multitasking mindset to create more peace and productivity? We welcome all the help we can get! Leave your ideas in the comments section below.
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